Home Office seeks £12.8m facial recognition system

Department publishes pre-tender on behalf of the Identity and Passport Service

The Home Office is planning to buy a £12.8m facial recognition system to help determine an applicant’s entitlement and eligibility for a British passport.

According to a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union, the technology is being procured on behalf of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) and would be delivered as a discrete service within the existing IPS architecture, capable of performing “one-to-one and one-to-many” checks.

The deal has been divided into two lots. The first is for a facial recognition system engine, while the second is for a system to interact with the facial recognition system engine, including the provision of a business rules capability, workflow capability, management information and audit. The notice says that a data interface from an existing application system will also be required.

The solution from the second lot would use existing biographic and biometric information as part of the facial recognition checks, with appropriate result-based data stored with each check.

According to the notice, “no weight will be attached to whether or not an economic operator is an SME in assessing the most economically advantageous tender”.

Chris Pennell, principal analyst at public sector market intelligence firm Kable, said that the adoption of facial recognition software is likely to become the standard biometric measure of choice for the Home Office.

“There are now over 17m biometric passports in circulation and the use of biometrics for residence permits has recently been expanded. At the same time, the IPS is also facing increasing pressure to continue to meet targets while reducing overall headcount, placing pressure on staff and productivity levels.

“But while the IPS is pressing on with biometrics in certain areas, there is still confusion around the use of facial biometrics in others, specifically around the future shape of e-borders.

“Given the proliferation of facial biometrics and the commitment not to introduce further biometrics, we would expect any future programme by the Home Office to include a significant element of this technology. This is likely to be an area of growth in the future for suppliers, though it is interesting to note the pre-tender information breaks with past tradition and looks to award separate lots.”

The Home Office did not respond when asked for further details on the procurement.

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