Wanted Global Partners To Push Biometrics Platform


Wanted Global Partners To Push Biometrics Platform

By Nick Wakeman
Staff Writer

Unisys Corp. is probing for partners as it rolls out a new biometrics product aimed at the expanding global market for such technology.

The company, based in Blue Bell, Pa., is particularly interested in teaming with systems integrators that offer access to those markets where Unisys lacks a presence, company officials said.

By the end of the year, the company wants to have at least five systems integrators signed up as partners for developing solutions based on its new biometrics platform, said Linda Mangialardi, marketing director for Unisys Computer Systems Group.

Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe are potentially strong growth areas for biometrics systems, she said.
As countries in these regions become more stabilized, they are more concerned about identification. Election fraud and social services fraud are major concerns for them, she said.

The worldwide market for government biometrics systems is expected to swell from $1.5 billion in 1997 to $5 billion by 2001, according to Mangialardi.

Unisys' BioWare platform, which was released in late April, pulls together the hardware and software for using fingerprint and smart card technology as a way of verifying a person's identity. As they become more reliable, capabilities will be added for scanning the iris of the eye and using facial recognition for identification purposes, Mangialardi said.

Unisys has signed two integrators: Elaghil Trading Co. in Yemen and Imaging Technology Corp. in Hudson, Mass. Unisys also is working with its in-house systems integration unit to field systems.

Unisys officials are discussing with Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Texas, expanding their partnership in Great Britain to include BioWare. Company officials also are exploring potential partnerships with several Big 6 accounting firms, she said.

"This is still an emerging market [both in the United States and internationally],
but these markets are going to be huge," she said.

Some relatively small projects already under way in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Yemen should allow
the company to attract more integrator
partners and win new contracts, she said. Those efforts range from Yemen's $1.3 million project to one worth $14 million for Panama.

BioWare is hitting the market at an opportune time because no other company has an integrated product, said Christian Byrnes, vice president of service and systems management strategies for the Meta Group of Arlington, Va.

"There have been no standards, no plug and play platforms," Byrnes said. Most biometrics systems have been highly customized and expensive, he said.

BioWare is needed "if you are going to move beyond customized solutions," he said.

Replicating the core of biometrics solutions is a strong selling point for BioWare, Mangialardi said. The platform can cover 50 percent to 60 percent of the solution, which frees the integrator to focus on a project's higher margin consulting and services, she said.

But there will always be portions that need to be customized, she said. "These projects come in a lot of flavors."

On the domestic front, state governments are exploring biometrics as a way to address social services issues, including fraud and the electronic transfer of benefits, she said.

Government demand has been pushing biometrics technology development, said Jackie Fenn, vice president and research director for the Gartner Group, Stamford, Conn. "The technology has reached a point where it is accurate enough and the price points are coming down," Fenn said.

As prices fall, Meta Group's Byrnes said he expects to see even more government and commercial biometrics projects. "Corporate America is very interested, they just can't afford it right now," he said.

In the meantime, Unisys is concentrating on government projects because that is where the most interest is today, Mangialardi said. For example, South Africa is considering spending $100 million on a national identification system.

"Partnerships are really going to be necessary, because no one can do it all on their own," Byrnes said.

Where: Costa Rica
What: Voter registration system
Value: $4.7 million
Awarded: February 1997
Where: Yemen
What: National ID system
Value: $1.3 million
Awarded: December 1997
Where: Panama
What: Voter registration system
Value: $14 million
Awarded: April 1997
Where: Dominican Republic
What: Voter registration system
Value: $5.8 million
Awarded: April 1997

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