I’m looking forward to the Biometrics2011 conference in London next week.
One of the more interesting presentations is the Biometrics and Identity Matching as a Software Service panel discussion at the end of the last day.
In my view, this is a topic that is ripe for discussion, given the current levels of indebtedness of our governments.
With the current wave of austerity sweeping the world’s nations at the moment, most programmes entailing large capital expenditure are out, unless they demonstrate significant return on investment in the same fiscal year; large government IT projects take years to re-coup investment.
Suppliers are looking at recovering this loss of business by self-financing other business models, and one that is becoming increasingly popular is selling transactional services. Basically this entails moving the up-front investment from the customer to the supplier, as well as the onus to realise the ROI over the life of the programme.
Such models are increasingly supported by trends such as cloud computing, data center consolidation, shared infrastructure and virtualisation.
In today’s economic climate, the ability to move an initial large up-front capital expenditure to a long-term annual operating expenditure spread over the life of the programme is understandably attractive to customers.
On the flip-side, these same economic conditions will make it more difficult for suppliers to structure such deals, and they will remain the preserve of the larger suppliers with pockets deep enough to weather the current economic storm.
That this business model is attractive to larger government biometric identity programmes is no surprise.
In fact, this arrangement is nothing new. The Western Identification Network (WIN) is a collaboration of eight US states, and is one of the larger criminal / law enforcement AFIS systems in existence. It is hosted, run and owned by the supplier, with the states paying for match services.
The UK’s Ident1 Criminal AFIS system is structured in a similar manner.
Interestingly, the panel members of the Biometrics 2011 panel discussion represent NEC (suppliers of the US WIN system), Northrop Grumman Corporation (suppliers of the UK Ident1 system), and the UK National Police Improvement Agency (customers for the UK Ident1 system), so they should know what they are talking about!