Let’s look at why I declared myself the biometric proposal writing expert (BPWE) and biometric content marketing expert (BCME) in mid-2021, what happened over the last few months, why it happened, and who benefits.
Why am I the BPWE and BCME?
At the time that I launched this marketing effort, I wanted to establish Bredemarket’s biometric credentials. I was primarily providing my expertise to identity/biometric firms, so it made sense to emphasize my 25+ years of identity/biometric expertise, coupled with my proposal, marketing, and product experience. Some of my customers already knew this, but others did not.
So I coupled the appropriate identity words with the appropriate proposal and content words, and plunged full-on into the world of biometric proposal writing expert (BPWE within Bredemarket’s luxurious offices) and biometric content marketing expert (BCME here) marketing.
There’s been one more thing that’s been happening in Bredemarket’s luxurious offices over the last couple of months.
Let’s say that it’s December 2022, and someone performs a Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo search for a biometric content marketing expert. The person finds Bredemarket, and excitedly goes to Bredemarket’s biometric content marketing expert page, only to encounter this text at the top of the page:
Update 4/25/2022: Effective immediately, Bredemarket does NOT accept client work for solutions that identify individuals using (a) friction ridges (including fingerprints and palm prints), (b) faces, and/or (c) secure documents (including driver’s licenses and passports).
I’ve already shared some (not all) details about why I’m pivoting with the Bredemarket community, but perhaps you didn’t get the memo.
I have accepted a full-time position as a Senior Product Marketing Manager with an identity company. (I’ll post the details later on my personal LinkedIn account, https://www.linkedin.com/in/jbredehoft/.) This dramatically decreases the amount of time I can spend on my Bredemarket consultancy, and also (for non-competition reasons) limits the companies with which I can do business.
Those of you who have followed Bredemarket from the beginning will remember that Bredemarket was only one part of a two-pronged approach. After becoming a “free agent” (also known as “being laid off”) in July 2020, my initial emphasis was on finding full-time employment. Within a month, however, I found myself accepting independent contracting projects, and formally established Bredemarket to handle that work. Therefore, I was simultaneously (a) looking for full-time work, and (b) growing my consulting business. And I’ve been doing both simultaneously for over a year and a half.
Now that I’ve found full-time employment again, I’m not going to give up the consulting business. But it’s definitely going to have to change, as outlined in my April 25, 2022 update.
So now all of this SEO traction will not benefit you, the potential Bredemarket finger/face client, but it obviously will benefit my new employer. I can see it now when people talk about my new employer: “Isn’t that the company where the biometric content marketing expert is the Senior Product Marketing Manager?”
P.S. There’s a “change” Spotify playlist. Unlike Kevin Meredith, I don’t use my playlists to make sure my presentation is within the alloted time. Especially when I create my longer 100-plus song playlists; no one wants to hear me speak for that long. Thankfully for you, this playlist is only a little over an hour long, and includes various songs on change, moving, endings, beginnings, and time.
I recently announced a change in business scope for my DBA Bredemarket. Specifically, Bredemarket will no longer accept client work for solutions that identify individuals using (a) friction ridges (including fingerprints and palm prints) and/or (b) faces.
This impacts some companies that previously did business with me, and can potentially impact other companies that want to do business with me. If you are one of these companies, I am no longer available.
Since Bredemarket will no longer help you with your friction ridge/face marketing and writing needs, who will? Who has the expertise to help you? I have two suggestions.
Tandem Technical Writing
Do you need someon who is not only an excellent communicator, but also knows the ins and outs of AFIS and ABIS systems? Turn to Tandem Technical Writing LLC.
I first met Laurel Jew back in 1995 when I started consulting with, and then working for, Printrak. In fact, I joined Printrak when Laurel went on maternity leave. (I was one of two people who joined Printrak at that time. As I’ve previously noted, Laurel needed two people to replace her.)
Laurel worked for Printrak and its predecessor De La Rue Printrak for several years in its proposals organization.
Why does this matter to you? Because Laurel not only understands your biometric business, but also understands how to communicate to your biometric clients. Not many people can do both, so Laurel is a rarity in this industry.
Perhaps your needs are more technical. Maybe you need someone who is a certified forensics professional, and who has also implemented many biometric systems. If that is your need, then you will want to consider Applied Forensic Services LLC.
I met Mike French in 2009 when Safran acquired Motorola’s biometric business and merged it into its U.S. subsidiary Sagem Morpho, creating MorphoTrak (“Morpho” + “Printrak”). I worked with him at MorphoTrak and IDEMIA until 2020.
Unlike me, Mike is a true forensic professional. (See his LinkedIn profile.) Back in 1994, when I was still learning to spell AFIS, Mike joined the latent print unit at the King County (Washington) Sheriff’s Office, where he spent over a decade before joining Sagem Morpho. He is an IAI-certified Latent Print Examiner, an IEEE-certified Biometric Professional, and an active participant in IAI and other forensic activities. I’ve previously referenced his advice on why agencies should conduct their own AFIS benchmarks.
Why does this matter to you? Because Mike’s consultancy, Applied Forensic Services, can provide expert advice on biometric procurements and implementation, ensuring that you get the biometric system that addresses your needs.
There are other companies that can help you with friction ridge and face marketing, writing, and consultation services.
I specifically mention these two because I have worked with their principals both as an employee during my Printrak-to-IDEMIA years, and as a sole proprietor during my Bredemarket years. Laurel and Mike are both knowledgeable, dedicated, and can add value to your firm or agency.
And, unlike some experienced friction ridge and face experts, Laurel and Mike are still working and have not retired. (“Where have you gone, Peter Higgins…”)
(UPDATE: I have indicated portions of this post that include speculation from myself and others.)
When I wrote “About THAT Reuters article” (specifically, the February 4 articlespeculating about a possible sale of IDEMIA by Advent International to Thales Group), I noted that I have no expertise in predicting corporate acquisitions.
However, I’ve experienced three of them, including Motorola’s acquisition of Printrak in 2000, Safran’s acquisition of Motorola’s Biometric Business Unit in 2008-2009, and Advent International’s acquisition of Safran’s Morpho unit in 2016-2017 (and Advent’s merger of Oberthur and Morpho to form OT-Morpho, later IDEMIA).
None of these was a simple matter of the acquiring company and the acquired company approving the acquisition. It was more complicated than that.
Under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, and the rules promulgated under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, Printrak, Acquisition Sub and Motorola cannot complete the Merger until they notify and furnish information regarding the acquisition of Printrak by Acquisition Sub to the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and satisfy specified waiting period requirements. Printrak and Motorola (as the sole stockholder of Acquisition Sub) filed notification and report forms under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act with the FTC and the Antitrust Division on September 26, 2000 and received early termination of the waiting period from the Federal Trade Commission effective October 11, 2000.
In addition, Printrak and Motorola are required to furnish certain information and materials to the antitrust authorities of Argentina, Brazil, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Romania. Filings were made in Argentina on September 22, 2000, in Brazil on September 19, 2000 and in the Federal Republic of Germany on September 27, 2000. German antitrust authorities have one month after the parties file their application to review the transaction. During that one month period, they can either approve the transaction or initiate an examination of the transaction which could take an additional three months, during which time the parties cannot close the transaction. During this three month period, the antitrust authorities will either approve the transaction or prohibit it. Approval may be granted before the initial one month review or before the additional three month review period. If approved, the antitrust authorities can not later challenge the transaction under their merger law but could challenge the transaction under other provisions of their antitrust laws. Printrak and Motorola intend to make a post-closing filing in Romania as soon as practicable after the closing.
Why did the Motorola acquisition of Printrak require all of those approvals? Because Printrak did business in these countries (and many others), and the governments of those particular countries wanted to exert control over who does business in their country. For example, Printrak was the automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS) supplier in Romania, and the government of Romania had a need to know what would happen if Motorola were to become the supplier of its AFIS. Would all of the fingerprints be replaced by batwings? Would the new owner require the Romanian employees to apply Six Sigma in their everyday lives? Would Romania have to use Iridium to communicate AFIS data?
Well, everyone in the U.S. and the other countries granted approval, and the Motorola acquisition of Printrak was eventually completed, although it took roughly three months to get all the approvals. I remember that we were at a trade show (IACP, I think) with Printrak signage, and received mid-show approval to string up Motorola banners after receiving final approval.
And that was the relatively EASY acquisition of the three that I experienced. The next one was harder.
CFIUS is an interagency committee authorized to review certain transactions involving foreign investment in the United States and certain real estate transactions by foreign persons, in order to determine the effect of such transactions on the national security of the United States.
Because Motorola not only sold fingerprint identification technology, an export controlled technology, but also managed law enforcement data for a number of states and (on a limited basis) for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal government agencies.
Never mind the fact that France has been a long-standing ally of the United States. Heck, Israel is an ally of the U.S., and we didn’t like it when Israel spied on us.
CFIUS had to make sure that foreign control of Motorola’s biometric assets wouldn’t cause issues. Would French intelligence personnel steal all of the personal identifiable information (PII) from the AFIS databases in Minnesota, North Carolina, and other states?
Safran acquires other things
Eventually CFIUS decided that there was no critical threat and allowed the Safran acquisition of Motorola’s Biometric Business Unit to go through.
After all, it wasn’t like Motorola managed the main FBI criminal database, or state driver’s license databases, or anything like that.
You see, the main FBI criminal database, then known as IAFIS, was already managed by Safran.
And the state driver’s license databases were managed by neither Safran nor Motorola. A separate company, L-1 Identity Solutions, managed the majority of those databases.
So Safran’s acquisition of Motorola’s biometric assets was approved by all necessary government entities, and everyone was happy.
But Safran wasn’t done with its acquisitions, and a few years later acquired L-1 Identity Systems also. So now U.S. driver’s license production would be under French control.
This time around, CFIUS insisted on mitigating the effects of “Foreign Ownership, Control or Influence” (FOCI). Specifically, L-1 Identity Solutions (renamed “MorphoTrust”) was placed under a proxy structure, in which MorphoTrust’s Board of Directors was entirely composed of U.S. citizens. In addition, a number of MorphoTrust employees who were not U.S. citizens were shifted away from MorphoTrust to other Safran companies (most notably MorphoTrak, the company that contained the former Motorola Biometric Business Unit and other stuff).
By the way, I wrote about this before, but it’s in a Bredemarket Premium article so most of you can’t read it. Consider this information a freebie.
Even though they were owned by the same company, and used some of the same hardware components, MorphoTrust and MorphoTrak were managed separately. MorphoTrust had to log its contacts with foreigners, including U.S. employees of the foreign-owned MorphoTrak. Any transactions between MorphoTrust and MorphoTrak had to be carefully monitored to ensure that “foreign” components didn’t sneak their way into MorphoTrust products. And (most notably) because we couldn’t really talk to each other, MorphoTrust and MorphoTrak actually competed against each other on several occasions, including instances in which both subsidiaries proposed fingerprint livescan stations to the same customers.
But we were one big happy fractured family, and CFIUS was satisfied.
Well, until the next acquisition took place.
Advent International (and Oberthur) acquires part of Safran
Remember how I said that I couldn’t really predict acquisitions? After Safran acquired Motorola’s Biometric Business Unit, I thought I was home free. Printrak was the odd man out in Motorola, since our part of Motorola (later becoming Motorola Solutions) specialized in the sale of lots and lots of police radios, while we in Printrak specialized in the sale of a few AFIS systems. Once we joined Safran, we became part of a huge division (Sagem Sécurité, later known as Morpho) that ONLY performed identity functions.
But on the U.S. side, CFIUS got involved again because MorphoTrust was part of the acquisition. Never mind the fact that MorphoTrust was now majority American-owned; MorphoTrust’s corporate parent was headquartered in France, and Bpifrance owned part of MorphoTrust.
And my job became really complicated, because I, a former MorphoTrak employee, reported to someone who was a former MorphoTrust employee. And even though the U.S. part of IDEMIA (excluding IDEMIA NSS) was no longer FOCI-mitigated, some leftovers from the old MorphoTrust days were still around.
Initially there were still two separate computer networks, and I had to have access to both of them, which meant that I had to obtain a second computer from the Billerica, Massachusetts office to access the old MorphoTrust network. (Before obtaining that second computer, I had to undergo a security screening.)
Eventually the two separate networks went away…after I left IDEMIA. Actually, I’m not entirely certain that they COMPLETELY went away, but at least the email addresses were all standardized throughout the United States after I left. (Yes, I had two email addresses also.)
Two new complications when some future entity acquires IDEMIA
So what happens in the future? Reuters has speculated what may happen, and I am speculating also.
As I noted previously, Advent International acquires businesses, revamps them, and sells them (hopefully) at a profit.
So even if the Reuters article turns out to be factuallyincorrect, Advent is going to sell IDEMIA someday.
Based upon past acquisitions, I believe it is pretty likely that the French government is going to have some say in the sale. Reuters speculated that nothing will happen until after next month’s Presidential election in France. (See my LinkedIn post in Bredemarket Identity Firm Services about the French election.) The French President, whoever he or she may be when Advent finally tries to sell IDEMIA in 2022, 2023, or 2033, is going to exert control over who the final buyer will be. Perhaps the President may insist that IDEMIA be sold to a French company, or at least a European Union company.
And based upon past acquisitions, I believe it is pretty likely that the U.S. government is going to have some say in the sale. The U.S. President, whoever he or she may be when Advent tries to sell IDEMIA (again, whenever that may occur), is going to exert control over who the final buyer will be, because of the significant business that IDEMIA NSS and the rest of IDEMIA does with U.S. federal, state, and local government entities. Oh, and there’s also the matter of fingerprint identification export control.
But those are not the two complications that I’m talking about. There are two NEW complications.
Possible Complication Number One: IDEMIA has locations all over the world, including a location in Moscow.
As of Monday (March 14), at least 375 companies had announced some sort of pullback from Russia, according to a list maintained by the School of Management at Yale University. The list includes companies that have cut ties with Russia completely, as well as those that have suspended operations there while attempting to preserve the option to return.
According to multiple media reports, dozens of Western companies have been contacted by prosecutors in Russia with warnings that their assets, including production facilities, offices, and intellectual property, such as trademarks, may be seized by the government if they withdraw from the country.
Unless IDEMIA is acquired by a Russian company (which is extremely unlikely, given French and U.S. interests), anyone who acquires IDEMIA (or any company with Russian offices) has to consider how Russia will react. Will the Russian portion of the business be a total loss? Will Russian entities acquire IDEMIA intellectual property? (This would be ironic, considering some past allegations that have been made but not IMHO proven.)
But Russia isn’t the only potential complication of a sale of IDEMIA.
Possible Complication Number Two: IDEMIA also has locations in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shenzen. And it’s possible that the Chinese government is going to have some interest in who IDEMIA’s future owner will be.
It is possible that China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) might review any acquisition.
In early September of 2021, China’s competition authority, the State Administration for Market Regulation (“SAMR”) issued a report (“SAMR 2020 Report”) summarizing its Anti-Monopoly Law enforcement activities during the period covering the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020).
While relations between the West and China are certainly better than current relations between the West and Russia, there is always an underlying tension in those relations. For example, if a Taiwanese company were to acquire IDEMIA, this could be considered a declaration of war.
And in the specific case of IDEMIA, the biometric algorithms from IDEMIA directly compete with biometric algorithms from China. The February 2022 printed version of the NIST FRVT 1:1 report indicates that dozens of tested facial recognition algorithms are of Chinese origin, including algorithms from Cloudwalk, Dahua, Fujitsu, Hikvision, Megvii, Sensetime, Tencent, Xforward, and a host of other companies and universities.
What if (again, I’m speculating) China decides to oppose an acquisition of IDEMIA unless it receives assurances that IDEMIA will not threaten the domestic Chinese biometric providers?
So whoever buys IDEMIA from Advent may have to pay attention to government regulators in the U.S., France, the European Union, and possibly Argentina, Brazil, China, Germany, Romania, and Russia.
For the last twenty-five plus years, I have been involved in the identification of individuals.
Who is the person who is going through the arrest/booking process?
Who is the person who claims to be entitled to welfare benefits?
Who is the person who wants to enter the country?
Who is the person who is exiting the country? (Yes, I remember the visa overstay issue.)
Who is the person who wants to enter the computer room in the office building?
Who is the person who is applying for a driver’s license or passport?
Who is the person who wants to enter the sports stadium or concert arena?
These are just a few of the problems that I have worked on solving over the last twenty-five plus years, all of which are tied to individual identity.
From that perspective, I really don’t care if the person entering the stadium/computer room/country whatever is female, mixed race, Muslim, left handed, or whatever. I just want to know if this is the individual that he/she/they claims to be.
If you’ve never seen the list of potential candidates generated by a top-tier facial recognition program, you may be shocked when you see it. That list of candidates may include white men, Asian women, and everything in between. “Well, that’s wrong,” you may say to yourself. “How can the results include people of multiple races and genders?” It’s because the algorithm doesn’t care about race and gender. Think about it – what if a victim THINKS that he was attacked by a white male, but the attacker was really an Asian female? Identify the individual, not the race or gender.
So when Gender Shades came out, stating that IBM, Microsoft, and Face++ AI services had problems recognizing the gender of people, especially those with darker skin, my reaction was “so what”?
(Note that this is a different question than the question of how an algorithm identifies individuals of different genders, races, and ages, which has been addressed by NIST.)
But some people persist in addressing biometrics’ “failure” to properly identify genders and races, ignoring the fact that both gender and race have become social rather than biological constructs. Is the Olympian Jenner male, female, or something else? What are your personal pronouns? What happens when a mixed race person identifies with one race rather than another? And aren’t we all mixed race anyway?
The latest study from AlBdairi et al on computational methods for ethnicity identification
But there’s still a great interest in “race recognition.”
As Jim Nash of Biometric Update notes, a team of scientists has published an open access paper entitled “Face Recognition Based on Deep Learning and FPGA for Ethnicity Identification.”
The authors claim that their study is “the first image collection gathered specifically to address the ethnicity identification problem.”
But what of the NIST demographic study cited above? you may ask. The NIST study did NOT have the races of the individuals, but used the individuals’ country of origin as a proxy for race. Then again, it is possible that this study may have done the same thing.
Despite the fact that there are several large-scale face image databases accessible online, none of these databases are acceptable for the purpose of the conducted study in our research. Furthermore, 3141 photographs were gathered from a variety of sources. Specifically, 1081, 1021, and 1039 Chinese, Pakistani, and Russian face photos were gathered, respectively.
There was no mention of whether any of the Chinese face photos were Caucasian…or how the researchers could tell that they were Caucasian.
Anyway, if you’re interested in the science behind using Deep Convolutional Neural Network (DCNN) models and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to identify ethnicity, read the paper. Or skip to the results.
The experimental results reported that our model outperformed all the methods of state-of-the-art, achieving an accuracy and F1 score value of 96.9 percent and 94.6 percent, respectively.
But this doesn’t answer the question I raised earlier.
Three possible use cases for race recognition, two of which are problematic
Why would anyone want to identify ethnicity or engage in race recognition? Jim Nash of Biometric Update summarizes three possible use cases for doing this, which I will address one by one. TL;DR two of the use cases are problematic.
The code…could find a role in the growing field of race-targeted medical treatments and pharmacogenomics, where accurately ascertaining race could provide better care.
Note that in this case race IS a biological construct, so perhaps its use is valid here. Regardless of how Nkechi Amare Diallo (formerly Rachel Dolezal) self-identifies, she’s not a targeted candidate for sickle cell treatment.
It could be helpful to some employers. Such as system could “use racial information to offer employers ethnically convenient services, then preventing the offending risk present in many cultural taboos.”
This is where things start to get problematic. Using Diallo as an example, race recognition software based upon her biological race would see no problem in offering her fried chicken and watermelon at a corporate function, but Diallo might have some different feelings about this. And it’s not guaranteed that ALL members of a particular race are affected by particular cultural taboos. (The text below, from 1965, was slightly edited.)
People used to think of (blacks) as going around with fried chicken in a paper bag, (Godfrey) Cambridge says. But things have changed. “Now,” he says, “we carry an attache case—with fried chicken in it. We ain’t going to give up everything just to get along with you people.”
I thought we had settled this over 20 years ago. Although we really didn’t.
While President Bush was primarily speaking about religious affiliation, he also made the point that we should not judge individuals based upon the color of their skin.
Yet we do.
If I may again return to our current sad reality, there have been allegations that Africans encountered segregation and substandard treatment when trying to flee Ukraine. (When speaking of “African,” note that concerns were raised by officials from Gabon, Ghana, and Kenya – not from Egypt, Libya, or Tunisia. Then again, Indian students also complained of substandard treatment.)
Many people in the United States and western Europe would find it totally unacceptable to treat people at borders and public areas differently by race.
Do we want to encourage this use case?
And if you feel that we should, please provide your picture. I want to see if your concerns are worthy of consideration.
And as far as I’m concerned, the length of the piece and the choice to use quantitative or qualitative data (or both) is secondary to the primary purpose, which is to present an example that resonates with a potential customer.
Not that I don’t have ANY rules. Whether you’re writing a case study or testimonial, I like to structure it with the following format:
The results (from using the solution to solve the problem).
This format allows a customer-centric presentation with which the reader can identify. “Hey, Joe’s Garage used this widget to solve their problem. Maybe I can use this widget to solve a similar problem.”
Now perhaps others use a different outline for their case studies or testimonials. And that’s…OK.
My own term
So for ease of communication, I’ve decided to adopt a different term. It’s not original with me, but it doesn’t look like anyone else is currently using the term on a regular basis.
Instead of using awkward references to “case studies and/or testimonials,” I’m just going to refer to casetimonials.
I used the casetimonial term a lot on this page (recently revised) on the Bredemarket website, which not only includes a shorter form of the discussion above about the difference between a case study and a testimonial, but also discusses how a casetimonial can be used, how it can be repurposed, the types of firms that can benefit from casetimonials, and how Bredemarket can help you create your own casetimonials.
If you can use Bredemarket’s assistance with communicating past customer successes to future clients:
My biometric/identity collateral wasn’t the only thing that I updated yesterday.
As part of my preparation for yesterday evening’s Ontario IDEA Exchange meeting, I took the time to update my “local” brochure. (Because local is important: see the first of my three goals for 2022.) This brochure includes a section that discusses the types and numbers of pieces that I have prepared for clients, including the number of case studies, the number of RFx responses, and so forth.
Those numbers hadn’t been updated since last September.
Before going to the meeting, I wanted to make sure my “local” brochure had the latest numbers.
I’ll go ahead and share them with you. This covers the projects that Bredemarket has completed for clients over the last 18 months, as of February 16, 2022:
Fourteen (14) case studies
Eight (8) articles (blog posts)
Three (3) service offering descriptions
Three (3) white papers
Nine (9) RFx responses
Four (4) sole source responses
Six (6) proposal templates
One (1) technical leave behind
Two (2) biometric analyses
As it turns out, I didn’t hand out my local brochure to anyone at last night’s IDEA Exchange. (It was a small crowd, most of whom I already knew.)
But at least I’ve tabulated the numbers.
Now I just have to update all of my NON local collateral…
I really need to update my own website more frequently.
About a year ago, I created a web page and an accompanying brochure entitled “Bredemarket and Identity Firms.” I’ve updated the web page a time or two in the last year, but until a few minutes ago both the web page and the brochure were significantly out of date, and didn’t include some of the projects that I’ve worked on during the past few months.
You can view the updated web page or download the updated brochure (at the end of this post) if you like, but I’ll create a frictionless experience for you by reproducing (repurposing) the list of ALL of Bredemarket’s biometric/identity projects as of today. (And there are more projects in work that I haven’t listed yet.)
If I can perform similar services for your biometric/identity firm, contact me.
Proposal Writing: Created five proposal letter templates to let a biometric firm’s sales staff propose two products to five separate markets. After completing the first three templates, I received this unsolicited testimonial:
“I just wanted to truly say thank you for putting these templates together. I worked on this…last week and it was extremely simple to use and I thought really provided a professional advantage and tool to give the customer….TRULY THANK YOU!”
More Proposal Writing: Responded to three Requests for Information (RFIs) for two biometric firms, positioning the firms for future work from government agencies.
Even More Proposal Writing: Assisted a biometric firm in responding to multiple Requests for Proposal (RFPs) and sole source letters.
And more…: Created a proposal letter template for a biometric firm.
And still more…: Created a Microsoft Word-based response library for a biometric firm.
Proposal Analyzing: Monitored the social media activity of a biometric firm’s competition and created responsive proposal text to position the firm against its competition.
Proposal Editing: Assisted a biometric firm in the final stages of an RFP response, editing its proposal both before and after its Gold Team review.
Strategic Marketing: Updated customer counts and technical data for a secure document firm.
More Strategic Marketing: Assisted a leading biometric vendor in analyzing its NIST FRVT 1:1 and 1:N results, providing both public information the firm could share with its clients, and private information for the firm’s internal use.
Online Marketing: Analyzed a biometric website and its social media channels, looking for broken links, outdated information, synchronization errors, and other problems, and provided a report to the firm upon completion.
More Online Marketing: Wrote three service descriptions for a biometric consulting firm.
Online Writing: Interviewed customers and wrote case study text for 14 case studies a biometric firm.
More Online Writing: Wrote blog post text for a biometric firm.
In 2008, I was reading online late one evening and was completely and totally surprised when I learned that Motorola wanted to sell off half of Printrak to the French company Safran, the Sagem Morpho folks. Yes, Motorola was in trouble, but I didn’t have any idea that we would be sold off.
Years later, I was kinda sorta surprised when Safran decided that it wanted to get rid of its entire identity and security business, and was completely and totally surprised when the buyer was an American investment firm that owned Oberthur Technologies.
So my record on really understanding these acquisitions is pretty low.
With that caveat, I’ll go ahead and use a really eye-catching SUBtitle. Better late than never.
Former IDEMIA employee weighs in on Advent’s possible sale of the company
Impressive, isn’t it?
But before proceeding, I should let you know about THAT Reuters article that I referenced in the real post title.
Advent (actually, Advent International) is the American investment firm that I mentioned earlier. As an investment firm, its purpose in life is to buy businesses, improve them, and sell them for a profit.
So Advent began thinking about ways to make Oberthur more attractive.
At the same time, Safran was trying to decide what to do with its identity and security business. The purchase of Printrak was just a blip in Safran’s plans, as it acquired L-1 Identity Solutions (renamed MorphoTrust) and other businesses. But Safran is not an identity and security company. It’s a “de plane” company.
And Safran is also a defense company to protect France and other countries from evil forces.
The identity part of the business was clearly the odd one out. Heck, rich Corinthian leather would have fit better into the Safran product line.
I was an employee of IDEMIA at the time, and I don’t think I’m spilling any company secrets if I reveal that Advent wanted IDEMIA to do really really well, so that it could make a profit on the two acquisitions. I wasn’t at the highest executive level that was setting the high-level strategy, but I was often working on initiatives to help realize Advent’s profitability goal.
The possibility of an IDEMIA IPO or sale receded somewhat in early 2020. Among other things, COVID adversely affected two of IDEMIA’s core businesses in the United States, TSA PreCheck (nobody was flying) and driver’s licenses (the DMV offices were all closed).
Advent International is looking to sell its French biometrics and fingerprint identification firm IDEMIA in a deal worth up to $4.6 billion as it seeks to capitalise on growing demand for cybersecurity assets in Europe, two sources told Reuters.
The U.S. buyout fund is reviewing a series of options to sell IDEMIA, including a possible break-up of the company which was formed in 2016 by combining Safran’s identity and security business with Oberthur Technologies, the sources said.
As you, the wise reader, know, Reuters goofed here.
IDEMIA was NOT formed in 2016. The formation of IDEMIA was ANNOUNCED in 2016, but the deal wasn’t actually COMPLETED until 2017. Hey, at least Biometric Update got it right.
Anyway, if you read either Reuters or Biometric Update, you’ll learn that nothing is going to happen immediately (France is holding an election in April, and the composition of the new government could impact any sale), and that the possible split-up may separate the part of the business that sells to governments from the part that sells to commercial firms.
Of course, the big question about any sale of IDEMIA would be the identity of the buyer. Would Advent try (again) to issue an IPO, or would Advent look for one or more existing companies to purchase IDEMIA?
Both Reuters and Biometric Updare speculate that Thales could be a potential buyer. While Safran was slimming down to concentrate on its aircraft business, Thales has been beefing to to diversify its business, most notably in its purchase of Gemalto. (As people in my industry know, that purchase provided Thales with the technology of the old Cogent Systems.)
However, there are two possible issues with a Thales purchase of all or part of IDEMIA.
Antitrust issues. Automated fingerprint identification systems isn’t the only product that Thales and IDEMIA have in common. For example, both companies provide driver’s licenses in the United States. As any Thales purchase of IDEMIA is considered by the United States, France, and dozens of other countries, the deal could be opposed on antitrust grounds. This can be mitigated by limiting what Thales can buy, but it could complicate matters.
Thales is French. Some of the driver’s license and biometric technology that IDEMIA sells was developed in the United States, and is used by many government agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security. At present, while IDEMIA is headquartered in France, it is primarily owned by Americans, so there’s a teeny bit of comfort in that. But what if a French firm were to own IDEMIA? The horror! (Many years ago, when Cogent Systems first sold itself, it intentionally chose a U.S. buyer, 3M, for this very reason.) Never mind that the U.S. government has been using French (and Japanese) technology for years, and that some very specific arrangements have been set up to mitigate the risks of foreign ownership. Some Senator or another is guaranteed to raise a big stink if U.S. government institutions are dependent upon a French company.
So perhaps Thales could buy all or part of IDEMIA, or perhaps it may pass. But if Thales passes, are there any U.S.-owned companies that may have an interest in IDEMIA’s technology?
Because of my biometric bias, the first thing that I would consider would be American companies that are active in the biometric market. However, many of the U.S. companies are small, and don’t have a few billion dollars lying around to buy IDEMIA. So don’t look for Aware, Clearview AI, Paravision, Rank One Computing, or the like to be a buyer.
There are of course much bigger U.S. firms in high tech that have dipped their fingers into the biometrics market. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft all come to mind. However, those same customers that are of prime concern to U.S. Senators are also or prime concern to the employees of some of those firms, who don’t want their employers to do business with the “evil” Department of Homeland Security or even the “evil” local police departments that should all be defunded. (Amazon quit selling Rekognition to police agencies, for example.) Even Apple, which is developing its own digital driver’s license technology, is probably reluctant to own IDEMIA.
But there’s one tech company that intrigues me as possibly having an interest in IDEMIA.
It’s big enough to make the purchase, certainly likes to make acquisitions, and has no hesitation about working with government agencies.
But try telling that to the Faith Bible Institute, or to an employee of Frontier Booking International. (I’ll admit that the founder of the latter company, Ian Copeland, chose the company name deliberately. After all, his brother Miles founded I.R.S. Records, and their father worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.)
It’s best not to use acronyms at all and instead use full words. Because if you use full words, then (as Ed McMahon would say) you will ensure that EVERYONE knows exactly what you mean.
Allow me to play the Johnny Carson role and say that Ed was WRONG.
After all, the great English philosopher Robert Plant (I told you we’d get to Bob eventually) noted,
Take the word “biometrics.” In my circles, people generally understand “biometrics” to refer to one of several ways to identify an individual.
But for the folks at Merriam-Webster, this is only a secondary definition of the word “biometrics.” From their perspective, biometrics is primarily biometry, which can refer to “the statistical analysis of biological observations and phenomena” or to “measurement (as by ultrasound or MRI) of living tissue or bodily structures.”
The terms “Biometrics” and “Biometry” have been used since early in the 20th century to refer to the field of development of statistical and mathematical methods applicable to data analysis problems in the biological sciences.
Recently, the term “Biometrics” has also been used to refer to the emerging field of technology devoted to the identification of individuals using biological traits, such as those based on retinal or iris scanning, fingerprints, or face recognition. Neither the journal “Biometrics” nor the International Biometric Society is engaged in research, marketing, or reporting related to this technology. Likewise, the editors and staff of the journal are not knowledgeable in this area.
Despite this, there are some parallels between biometrics and biometrics. After all, both biometrics and biometrics take body measurements (albeit for different reasons), and therefore some devices that can be used for biometry can sometimes also be used for identification, and vice versa.
But only sometimes. Your run-of-the-mill optical fingerprint reader won’t contribute to any medical diagnosis, and I’m still on the fence regarding whether brain waves can be used to identify individuals. I need a sample size larger than 50 people before I’ll claim brain waves as a reliable biometric.
Of course, a biometric device such as an Apple Watch can not only measure your biometrics, but also your geolocation, which is another authentication factor.
When I was part of an industry in which the three major players were my employer IDEMIA and its competitors NEC and Thales, I was always aware of a potential threat to these three multi-billion dollar biometric companies. Specifically, there were much, much bigger technology companies (both inside and outside of Silicon Valley) with huge resources and extensive artificial intelligence experience. These firms could put the three biometric firms out of business at any time.
But is this threat a real threat? Or is it overstated?
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