Real ID market set to explode, but federal planners are holding the fuse

Published 26 September 2006

The need to exchange 245 million cards and verify their users’ identities presents a prime market opportunity for card manufacturers and computer and authentication systems providers; biometrics firms need not apply

It is a rule of thumb that when one person is unhappy, another is likely to get paid. Such is the case with the Real ID program, which, as we report today, has state officials in a tizzy about what they estimate as $11 billion in costs over the next five years (an analysis by market research firm Input puts the number at $2.5 billion through 2012). The bulk of the cost, experts say, is in providing new cards to 245 million Americans and verifying their identities. A pain for DMV officials: yes. A hassle for Americans who will have to troop down to the DMV: yes. A business opportunity for quick-acting companies: yes, yes, yes.

Spending so far has been slow, owing in part to the failure of DHS to propogate standards and in part to a decided disinterest on the part of states and municipalities to spend any money they don’t have to. “Varying levels of commitment, progress and spending have been seen across the states, but clearly, 15 months after the Real ID Act of 2005 was passed, there has been more talk than action in terms of implementation,” said James Krouse of Input. “Once Department of Homeland Security guidance is published and adequate funding is released, Input expects vendors will begin to see traction in the contract area.”

Companies that provide cards and verification services will do well. So too will those able to add value to state computing and information management systems. Biometric companies, however, are likely to be left out in the cold despite a booming federal market associated with HSPD-12 and TWIC-compliance needs. Although the exact costs of the Real ID Act remain in dispute, there is little doubt that requiring biometric identification would increase the costs beyond what even the most optimistic analysts would think are reasonable. In addition to the cost of the fingerprint or iris scanners, the challenge of trying to coordinate fifty state biometric programs would make HSPD-12 roll-out look like a model program of efficiency.

-read more in Michael Hardy’s Federal Computer Week report; read more about Input’s RealID Act analysis