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New law enforcement biometrics deal signals ImageWare’s fresh direction, execs say

New law enforcement biometrics deal signals ImageWare’s fresh direction, execs say

King County, Washington has selected ImageWare to provide an as-yet unreleased biometrics module for its 700 officers in a $1.5 million subscription deal.

The new contract is the largest software-as-a-service (SaaS) deal ever for ImageWare, and CEO Kristin Taylor tells Biometric Update in an interview that it represents the company’s new direction. King County is one of the largest U.S. law enforcement bodies west of the Rocky Mountains, and an existing ImageWare customer.

Taylor described the turnaround of ImageWare since she joined the company last year, including efforts to match the company with a financial backer with faith in the business’s potential prepared to commit to its long-term success. ImageWare’s current top shareholder, Taylor says, is that backer.

Much of ImageWare’s recent progress is with customers like the Federal Government, and so cannot be disclosed. ImageWare has also won biometrics contract with a Tribal Nation customer, and hopes to win more of the 4,000 Tribal Nations across the U.S.

Communicating those positive messages, given the nature of the clients, has been difficult, Taylor says. Being unable to communicate those deals, or provide more details about the resolve of its largest shareholder, Taylor feels that ImageWare’s diminishing cash reserves took on an unwarranted emphasis as an indication of its overall position.

The company will provide a corporate update in a conference call on Friday, December 10.

Taylor acknowledges that the “strategic alternatives” referred to in the earnings announcement indicates that change is coming soon.

“We’ve been looking at strategic investments, JVs, mergers,” and other possibilities, Taylor says, and plans to make a decision in around 30 days, in collaboration with its New England hedge-fund investor.

Transformation continues

The company had close to 30 products when Taylor took over, many of which had not been updated in a decade or more, and many of which were not succeeding, SVP of Product Management and Sales AJ Naddell tells Biometric Update on the same call.

The new direction Taylor chose, therefore, included a broad refresh of the technologies built on ImageWare’s core and proprietary IP, but also new go-to-market and product strategies.

Noting that ImageWare completed the first digital booking system, which was used by the LAPD and NYPD, Naddell suggests that the company had fallen back on its laurels, and failed to innovate. ImageWare began building out its platform anew, offering it as SaaS or a in a containerized version.

The first module released as part of the Law Enforcement 2.0 (LE2) biometrics platform is Capture, which was released in October with a customer already signed up.

The new module is scheduled for release “in a couple of weeks,” Naddell says, and like the Capture module, Naddell and Taylor believe the early customer support is a testament to the effectiveness of and market demand for ImageWare’s biometric technology.

King County deal

The 700 officers of King County will use ImageWare’s technology to perform biometric or biographic searches anywhere, from any device, according to the announcement, after ImageWare migrates more than 13 million arrest records from on-premise servers to its LE2 servers on the AWS GovCloud. The county will use the FirstNet-certified ImageWare Authenticate for multi-factor biometric access control to LE2, and potentially all of its other applications.

Naddell says ImageWare Authenticate is currently the only biometric MFA solution in the FirstNet catalogue.

He also says that in addition to possible expansion to logical access control for other applications, the technology could eventually be used by 5,000 law enforcement officers across the state, which can gain access to it through King County.

Of the total $1.5 million deal, he says $1.4 million is for the SaaS element.

Growth plans

“We’re unleashing revenue and opportunities specifically now in law enforcement, which has been stagnant for ImageWare for 10 to 15 years at least,” Taylor says, but the company plans to make further inroads in the federal space and other markets as well.

One use case that has come up in discussions with the U.S. Federal Government is around orchestration for PIV cards. Naddell says ImageWare can provide end-to-end services, including encoding biometrics on cards and issuing them, to support PIV cards. The company expects its biometric orchestration capabilities to lead to deals in this area, as Naddell says its competitors are not able to provide the same end-to-end breadth of services.

ImageWare can go to government systems integrators and suggest: “Why not have a commercial off-the-shelf thing that is not going to require a painstaking process to customize and deploy, and you’re not going to be getting calls from the customer a year from now at three in the morning because it’s not working,” Naddell recounts. “And that story’s sticking, and that’s why we’re working with some of the largest government systems integrators.”

He says that when he started with ImageWare, the company was pushing its capabilities into the conversations. Now, it is being pulled “into all sorts of things. Not even just in the U.S.,” he says, mentioning leads in Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

In the law enforcement, government services and Tribal Nations markets, Taylor says, securing early adopters for technologies like ImageWare’s new biometrics modules provides the testimony and assurance that others need to follow suit. Tribal Nations that adopt ImageWare technology for law enforcement could also deploy it to casinos, giving the company access to another lucrative market vertical.

ImageWare’s original platform has been generating maintenance revenue since 1998, but Taylor says that for years the company failed to capitalize on this position with further innovation. By taking that next step, “we’ve built what the markets wants and needs,” Taylor says, and been able to “wow” customers to win its two latest platform contracts, with flexible, fast and accurate biometric capabilities, delivered with a convenient user experience.

Naddell says customers have reported booking times above 20 minutes, and in some cases even over an hour. ImageWare’s technology can reduce that time close to five minutes.

She sees ImageWare taking on Idemia, DataWorks, NEC, Thales and “the folks that are sitting in the space that have old, outdated platforms.” Taylor intends to take market share from those incumbents.

The sales pipeline is more robust, the next module in its biometric platform is going through final testing, and ImageWare is bringing unique technologies to markets that need them, with partners that believe in them, according to Taylor. With these changes and the support of its largest shareholder, she sees improved cashflow ahead, and a very different new year approaching for ImageWare.

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