Mobilisa CEO details modern identification methods for Jefferson chamber audience
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Port of Port Townsend Director Larry Crockett, left, talks to Intellicheck Mobilisa CEO Nelson Ludlow about security at a meeting of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce on Monday. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Although identification-scanning technology has been in use for several years, a Port Townsend company’s innovation has turned the process into a cellphone app, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce was told Monday.

“We’ve made it a lot easier,” said Intellicheck Mobilisa CEO Nelson Ludlow to about 60 people gathered at the Port Townsend Elks Lodge for the chamber’s weekly luncheon meeting.

“What you used to do on a big, clumsy scanner is now much more portable.”

The application, called ­barZapp, scans the barcode that is embedded on every driver’s license in the United States or Canada, calling up the contained identity information and determining whether the identification is valid or false.

Fake IDs are most often used by underage people looking to go out drinking, so the application is most popular in bars and restaurants, Ludlow told the chamber audience.

It is the first commercial product from the company, which began in Port Townsend as Mobilisa in 2001 and merged with bar-code pioneer Intellicheck in 2005.

The instant analysis of identification through bar codes has a use beyond keeping people out of bars, Ludlow said.

Instead of taking a motorist’s driver’s license at a traffic stop, a police officer can scan it with a cellphone and immediately know if it is legitimate.

When used in conjunction with Google Glass, a wearable computer, a merchant can “look” at a license and the barcode information is immediately displayed,

Ludlow likened this ability to the movie “RoboCop,” where the protagonist was fitted with scanners.

It also has uses on the retail level.

“If you want to apply for a credit card, they can scan your license and you can safely apply for a credit card,” he said.

“Some places, like Sears, give you four pages to fill out. You need to write down your bank information, your Social Security number, you give them your driver’s license — and when they re-enter it, you hold up the line for nine minutes, and they keep that piece of paper.

“Nowadays, I don’t know anyone who’s comfortable with writing down their Social Security number, giving it to someone and allowing them to keep it.”

Ludlow said the company’s clients include the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which as its abbreviation NCIS has its own TV series, as well as other branches of the Navy.

“NCIS was one of our first contracts because they didn’t know who was coming on to their military bases,” Ludlow said.

“Bangor [the submarine base on Hood Canal] found out that 332 people who were let on the base were wanted felons, 14 of those set foot on a nuclear submarine and one was wanted in Utah as a child rapist.”

Ludlow said the applications only flag an ID if it is found to be a false. The company does not retain data from scanned documents that are legitimate.

The data from the fake identifications along with the IDs themselves strengthen the programs in the future, Ludlow said.

Most of the fakes come from China and are delivered to U.S. customers sewn inside a toy or purse, Ludlow said.

While the bar codes appear on the fakes, they lack several verification characteristics that are not easily faked, causing the exposure of a fraudulent ID.

Ludlow said the company will continue seeking and servicing government contracts, but the most lucrative partnerships will be with private companies and retail outlets that can make faster technology decisions.

While scanning an ID, the program also protects the privacy of the person scanned, Ludlow said.

“We protect the information,” he said. “The customer doesn’t even see the whole record.

“We want to prevent a bouncer from saying, ‘Hey, that’s a good-looking girl. I have her address so I’ll follow her home.’ ”


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Last modified: February 03. 2014 6:27PM
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