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Governments want new biometrics. Do you have the patience to book a sale?

Governments want new biometrics. Do you have the patience to book a sale?

Law enforcement agencies are sold on digital biometric identification, and for the most part, so are the lawmakers appropriating funds for systems. So, entrepreneurs merely need a chief’s email address to nail a big contract.

If only. Pushing automated biometric identification systems to create coherent, multimodal infrastructure in government at any level typically means accepting a level of confusion and unruliness that would scare the face paint off of a rodeo clown.

A new report from U.K.-based ABI Research splashes reality-flavored water on visions of easy revenue, at least in developed economies, which tend to have large and experienced (if not always biometrics-savvy) bureaucracies.

It is true that the number of agencies that now see biometrics as a critical to their operations is growing rapidly. Joining police, border and immigration departments in the camp of biometrics converts are criminal justice, health care and electoral bodies, writes ABI.

Agencies with years of experience with systems are ready to upgrade biometric systems — especially for multimodality. Upgrading an automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS) to an ABIS entails retrofitting and wholesale product replacement. Components and systems needing upgrades run from software and cameras to storage and networking to mobile devices and physical information hubs.

At the same time, government bodies struggling with patchwork pilot projects for facial recognition now understand the need for scalability and, within political constraints, are willing to pay for it.

But this target-rich environment has challenges that can make selling into a multinational corporation seem like a sabbatical.

With rare exceptions, agencies are not prepared for the Internet of Things, which complicates contracts for significant expansion and upgrades, sometimes beyond the point of profitability for manufacturers, installers, integrators, trainers and the rest of the industry.

Add to that, writes ABI, is the “laborious roadmap” faced by vendors. Turf battles and differing opinions can be expected anywhere, but even within agencies there are power centers opposed to the idea of greater surveillance.

Officials and managers across departments have varying experience with the relevant technologies, which can fragment the tightest sales plan. Early adopters in one area often dismiss the opinions of newcomers in another corner of the government. And virtually all lack the familiarity of vendors.

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