Spotlight: Field Forensics' easy-to-use products and reliable test kits essential to LEOs
Field identification of explosives and their precursor chemicals help LEOs and homeland security operatives disrupt terror networks and save lives
Company name: Field Forensics
Headquarters: Saint Petersburg, Fla.
Signature Product: The ELITE explosives detection tests
1. Where did your company name originate from?
When thinking of a company name, we wanted the name to describe what we do, or rather, what we help our customers do. So, Field Forensics seemed the perfect name since we help customer do forensics in the field.
2. What was the inspiration behind starting your company?
There were two things. First, it had been a pet peeve of FFI's founder during his days as an engineer working on radiological monitoring systems finding very expensive systems being used by government agencies and companies that couldn't actually do what they were meant to do because they ignored the problem of sample transport. Sample transport is also a problem in forensics so we wanted to help address the problem by bringing analytical capability to the sample instead of bringing the sample to the analytical capability.
The second was the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Some of us had been working in a company developing anti-terrorism related technologies for certain government agencies, but we had the feeling that none of the technologies would ever actually be used. We wanted to make a difference and almost immediately did with our very first product, TuffSyringe, a sampling device for chemical weapons agents, narcotics and explosives.
3. What is your signature product and how does it work?
In 2005, we introduced the first of the ELITE explosives detection tests and we are still selling that product line today; each ELITE kit is a disposable test that reacts to a target chemical by changing color. In other words, a colorimetric test kit.
We won an R&D 100 Award in 2006 for the original ELITE. Since then, we have branched out at the request of customers to drug test kits - our DABIT product line - which are also colorimetric test kits and we believe they are easier to use than any competing kits on the market.
We're also very proud of our Fen-Her, DXC.002, which combines colorimetric testing with chromatography to positively identify trace amounts of fentanyl - dramatically improving the safety of such tests as well as dramatically improving an accurate fentanyl (or derivatives) identification. Fen-Her derives from work we had done on another product called microTLC, which we won our second R&D 100 Award.
Another product, a handheld Raman spectrometer, called HandyRam, is a great example of a technology that was available only in labs, but was able to be made into a portable technique with the introduction of very small lasers and spectrometers. Our HandyRam is a great example and makes positive identification of illicit drugs - and other chemicals - easy and very accurate for police officers.
4. Why do you believe your products are essential to the law enforcement community?
Having easy to use and reliable test kits and instruments is essential to LE. Our kits help positively identify unknown chemicals - drugs, explosives, etc. - which leads to justified arrests and convictions that stick; in the case of anti-terrorism, field identification of explosives and their precursor chemicals help LEOs and homeland security operatives disrupt terror networks and save lives.
5. What makes your company unique?
We are registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration so we can test our products against scheduled narcotics in-house. We can also use known cutting agents to test how our kits and instruments react to adulterated narcotics - not just pure ones; we believe this gives us a competitive advantage over many other companies in the market.
6. What do your customers like best about you and your products?
Our customers have always told us that our products do what we say they will do; we never overstate or imply that our products can do more than they actually can. We continually remind ourselves in our R&D meetings that our customers have more serious things to think about than whether our kits or instruments are working properly; we use this idea in the development of all of our products.
7. What is the most rewarding part of serving the first responder community?
We are fulfilling the idea behind the company, which was to serve justice using science to develop mission-oriented products for law enforcement.
8. Do you support any charitable organizations within public safety?
Police Athletic League.
9. Is there any fun fact or trivia that you'd like to share about you or your company?
Our headquarters and laboratory in Saint Petersburg, Florida, built in 1926, was originally home to the American Maid Ice Cream Company. The building was later owned by a succession of dairies and eventually became part of the Sealtest Dairy - many of our city's documents still refer to our building as the Sealtest Building. Another one: everyone in the company has a code name - Tumbleweed, Flapjack, Homer, etc.
10. What's next for your company? Any upcoming new projects or initiatives?
We are continuing to enhance and extend the DABIT product line as well as our DXC product line to other types of narcotics - in addition to fentanyl and heroin. We are also developing a new explosives detection kit.