IBM to build biometrics system for UK cops and immigration services

Big Blue scores £54.7M project, taking business from Fujitsu as Home Office consolidates work

The UK's Home Office has handed IBM a £54.7 million ($70 million) contract to work on the biometric matcher platform to support its police and immigration services in identifying suspects against a database of fingerprint and photo data.

Big Blue's deal is to provide the Matcher Service Platform (MSP), which includes a "service bus" to provide biometric transaction processing logic, biometric workflow rules, integration of matching engine software (MES) and a service interface used by external subsystems”, according to an official notice.

The American tech biz will also create an infrastructure platform to host and provide the computing capacity for these services.

The contract, which set to run for a five-year term with an option to extend for a further three years, will transition and manage the existing Matcher Platform, built by Fujitsu, as well as creating new search capabilities and the decommissioning of legacy algorithms for a police service biometric data service IDENT1 and the immigration and asylum biometric information system (IABS).

In February 2018, Fujitsu won the £28 million contract ($35 million) to provide the Biometric Matcher Platform and associated Services (BMPS), in a deal which was set to end in March 2023.

The Register understands that the Fujitsu deal is currently in a period of "exit assistance" for the handover to IBM at a cost of up to £4.3 million.

Separate services run IDENT1 and IABS. In 2018, Home Office launched plans to move service management of the IDENT1 and IABS systems to a single supplier. IDENT1 had been managed by US defence specialist Northrop Grumman following a relationship first established in 1995. IABS had been overseen by IBM.

In Jan 2018, Home Office had planned to award a deal for £198 million ($253 million) over six years, rising to £308 million ($393 million) if the engagement lasts for the full 10 years, according to a tender notice published at the time.

In 2019, the central government department responsible for policing and securing UK borders awarded the six-year deal to global systems integrator Leidos Innovations for £96.4 million ($123 million). It retained the option of extending the contract for two periods of up to two years each.

The Register has contacted Leidos to ask whether it expects to see its contract extended. It has yet to respond.

The matching programs, IDENT1 and IABS, are managed by Home Office Biometrics (HOB).

Earlier this year, human rights campaigners at Big Brother Watch said [PDF] the Home Office was in the process of combining IDENT1 and IABS into a "mega-database," with logically separated role-based access controls.

"Although there is little information currently in the public domain about the Home Office's development of facial recognition as part of the HOB, some police forces do see this national system as a viable alternative to procuring their own retrospective facial recognition systems," it said. ®

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