Northrop Grumman in major biometric project in England and Wales

Published 7 February 2006

The giant U.S. defense contractors uses it technological savvy to run a biometric police project across the Atlantic

Northrop Grumman may be known for the fighter planes it produces, but the company has many more interests. One such interest is providing police forces in England and Wales with a system which allows officers to search through a database of six million sets of prints in minutes. The $250 million system, which has only recently gone into operation, is called Ident1, and is a continuation of an earlier Northrop contract to administer the national fingerprints database. Next year it will become more advanced with the inclusion of palm-prints, and there are plans to add more biometric data, such as face mapping and recognition. We have written before about the need for traditional defense supplier to diversify (in evidence: General Dynamics’ acquisition of Anteon), and Northrop is diversifying.

Not only Northrop. Lockheed Martin, a strong competitor to Northrop, is a key contractor to Royal Mail. These two companies, and several others, see Britain, which is a pioneer in involving private companies in the provision of public services, as a promising hunting ground. Northrop is in the running for the Home Office’s Eborders program, a 400 million program to bring together all the information on the movement of people in and out of Britain. The Home Office wants a system which will log all the details of people moving in and out of the country and check them against government databases before they travel. Permission to enter Britain could thus be denied before a traveler leaves foreign soil. IBM won a contract in 2004 to run a trial of the system on ten international routes. The U.K. activities will be run by a British subsidiary named Northrop Grumman UK.

-read more in Dominic O’Connell’s London Times report