BiometricsAtos Origin wins French biometric passport contract

Published 10 July 2008

French IT services company missed out on the U.K. e-Borders contract, and has also failed to win a framework contract as part of the procurement for the U.K. national ID card scheme, but it finds consolation in winning the contract to manage the development and rollout of the biometric passport system in France

French IT services company Atos Origin has been appointed by France’s National Secure Credentials Agency to manage the development and rollout of the biometric passport system in France. The new passport, which is the result of a European Union directive, is expected to improve personal security and reduce fraud. The introduction of a biometric passport is part of France’s modernization strategy and secure identity program, and will see Atos working with identity systems supplier Sagem Securite. Ovum’s Jessica Hawkins writes that the value of the contract was not disclosed, but that it is an ambitious program and an important win for Atos. Under the deal, Atos and Sagem Securite will deploy nearly 5,000 data acquisition and processing systems in 2,000 French town halls and 350 prefectures and sub-prefectures before June 2009, making it possible to include fingerprints on passports.

Cynics might say that being French helped Atos and Sagem win this contract, which has clear national security implications. Both companies, though, have a good track record in the area of security and identity globally. It is thus not a surprise to see Atos winning a biometrics contract — the company has extensive expertise and relationships in this field through its U.K. public sector business. It undertook a biometric technology trial for the U.K. Passport Service and defined an implementation strategy, framework, and business case for the rollout of a citizen multi-application smartcard in Scotland. It also has strong relationships with GCHQ and the Border and Immigration Agency and, as IT partner for the Olympic Games, has security-specific offerings high on its agenda. These existing relationships with key U.K. public sector security and identity organizations notwithstanding, the company missed out on the e-Borders contract and has failed to win a framework contract as part of the procurement for the national ID card scheme (CSC, EDS, Fujitsu, IBM, and Thales were the successful suppliers here). “It is likely that Atos is hoping that this flagship project in France will prove a useful reference site as it looks to grow its security and identity business across Europe,” writes Hawkins. Biometrics will increasingly become important to many European governments as a way to monitor the flux of populations. If Atos can deliver this project successfully, to time and to expectations, then it could put itself in a strong position to meet future demand for these capabilities.

Atos’s next major opportunity to demonstrate its security and biometric credentials could be the Olympic Games. As the official IT partner to the International Olympic Committee since 2002, Atos plays a key role in the supply of IT systems and services during the Olympic Games. With the threat of terrorism ever present, a large part of the IT requirements will be focused on security, and in particular identity management.