Interoperability Standards Vital for Implementing Multi-modal Biometrics in Government Agencies

June 15, 2005
Market analysis from Frost & Sullivan says implementation can't occur until standards are set

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Law enforcement agencies for forensic analysis and criminal investigations have used biometrics technologies, such as fingerprint identification and facial recognition, for quite some time. Physical and logical access controls are other application areas where the technology has been used, though it is limited to a few highly secure areas in Department of Defense. However, the threat of terrorist attacks on the United States have given this technology a major boost due to its adoption by the Department of Homeland Security for border security applications.

The ultimate goal of the biometrics technology is to add an extra layer of security to the existing security infrastructure. For this to happen, the biometrics data needs to integrate with a myriad of databases, applications and technologies within the agency using the technology. Many times, the biometrics data requires sharing among multiple agencies, thereby requiring integration among these agencies. The process of storage, sharing and analysis of the biometrics data, and its integration with other systems and technologies, requires the services of a system integrator.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan's Government IT and Telecom team (, U.S. Government Federal Civilian Agencies Spending on Biometrics-related Systems Integration, analyzes biometrics related system integration spending in the United States across three key agencies: Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and Department of State. These civilian agencies are the early adopters of biometrics and have ongoing and upcoming investment commitments for integration activities related to biometrics.

The Department of Homeland Security spending on biometrics system integration totaled $650 million in 2004, and projects to grow at a CAGR of 17.1 percent reaching $1.9 billion in 2011.

Interoperability and standardization across multiple systems, platforms, applications, devices and biometrics are essential to help the government share national security threat information with its agencies and allies. There is also a rising tendency to implement multi-modal biometrics, which intensifies the need for interoperability standards.

"The Registered Traveler program initiated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), has to clear major hurdles if it was to extend to other airports as a national program," says Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Roopa Shree H. "Currently, participants can use biometric kiosks only at the airports at which they registered."

It is imperative to adopt standards to enable interoperable systems to rapidly screen Registered Traveler members at all participating airports.

The Department of Homeland Security recently adopted its first biometric facial recognition standard that is consistent with international standards for biometric applications such as travel documents. This may just be the beginning of standardization in the industry.

With greater adoption of biometrics, there will inevitably be privacy concerns over data integrity. The public is primarily concerned about the misuse of the technology to invade or violate its privacy. Therefore, for large-scale adoption, it is critical to design systems that guard against possible abuse of the technology by the government.

Another government-related issue in the biometrics industry is the confusing bidding rules and contracting processes. Large system integrators have to dedicate entire departments and hundreds of sales personnel, engineers, and contractors to deal with the bidding and contracting process and long payment periods.

"While large system integrators can wait for extended payments, smaller companies may have more difficulty accommodating longer payment time frames," notes Roopa Shree. "The various contracting rules and time it takes to get paid discourage some smaller companies from entering and competing in the government vertical."