Viisage to Acquire Iris Recognition Developer Iridian Technologies

Biometrics company Viisage Technology announced this morning that it is purchasing Iridian Technologies, a company which pioneered some of the early developments in iris recognition. The purchase price is reportedly $35 million in cash.

In 1987, Iridian put itself on the map when it was the first company to file for a patent in iris recognition, the so-called Flom patent, named after the opthamologist who concepted the recognition protocol. Iridian held exclusive rights on that technology until the patent expired last year, opening the iris recognition market to new technologies and competitors. Since that first patent filing, the company developed a recognition algorithm that has become what Viisage calls an "industry standard for iris recognition"; the algorithm was also patented. The company has since gone on to develop a software system for iris processing. Most notably, Iridian's technology has found its way to the UAE's air, land and water ports where it has been used to identify persons barred from entering the country.

According to a statement from Viisage, Iridian will be merged into Viisage subsidiary SecuriMetrics, which was acquired in February 2006. SecuriMetrics is perhaps known best for its portable biometrics tools. In 2005, SecuriMetrics launched the "HIIDE Prototype", a portable solution for iris, face and fingerprint recognition. SecuriMetrics solutions have been adopted by government for defense and intelligence applications, but the company has also seen strong adoption in the corrections market for mobile inmate identification.

As part of the agreement for the acquisition, Viisage will pay Iridian's shareholders $35 million, but the company also notes that Viisage has a $6.5 million reduction in contingency payments that were part of the SecuriMetrics acquisition. Viisage is calling the final purchase price a "net" $28.5 million. Iridian's operations are in New Jersey and will be integrated with Identix's operations in Jersey City once the Viisage/Identix merger has been completed.

Viisage reports that current Iridian licensees -- the company lists Panasonic and Oki Electric Industry Co. among its licensees -- will still have non-exclusive rights for deploying the technology.

Robert LaPenta, whose company L-1 Investment Partners invested $100 million into Viisage, said that the real value of the acquisition was that Viisage family of companies would have "direct access to the intellectual property that underpins the iris recognition market."

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