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Biometrics vendors face 'more lean years'

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Biometrics companies, says Gartner, face more lean years, following a US decision to extend the deadline for the implementation of biometric visas from October this year until the end of 2006. The Visa Biometric Program requires 27 countries to issue citizens travelling to the US with biometric passports, but the inability of these countries to comply with the deadline has led to the delay.

Gartner notes, we fear without irony, that "the US federal government will set the standards that will drive the entire market," and that many vendors in the biometrics industry "are in a fragile financial condition." Vendors, it says, should cut spending to a minimum and prepare for a couple more lean years, while looking for government-sponsored biometric security projects, probably pilots.

This, we fear, is likely to promote UK Home Secretary David Blunkett to Mr Popular status, as far as biometrics vendors are concerned. The most recent public roadmap of biometric implementation for the UK (published early 2003, when entitlement cards were on the agenda) calls for preferred partners to have been selected in the current quarter, for trials going through until mid-2005, and for deployment in late 2007-early 2008. We are already behind on this schedule, given that it anticipated a green light in Q3 2003, but that may be good news for the biometrics vendors anyway.

The recommended rollout for the entitlement scheme seems perfectly rational and achievable, but as Tony Blair is now talking about accelerated deployment of a much more extensive system, the Home Office is going to have to give lots of companies lots of contracts very quickly. So chin up, biometrics industry - good times may be just around the corner, ®

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