IDEMIA Bags $180 Million Deal to Provide Enhanced Fingerprint Identification for Australian Law Enforcement Agencies

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has signed an agreement with IDEMIA to enhance the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS). Michael Phelan, CEO of the ACIC, inked the deal on November 15, 2021, Monday at the Australian High Commission in Paris, France. The new three-year project to enhance NAFIS will cost $180 million.

NAFIS is the national capability used by police across Australia and the Department of Home Affairs to establish an individual’s identity from fingerprint and palm impressions in near real-time. 

“This new agreement with IDEMIA will benefit law enforcement agencies across the states, territories and Commonwealth. It will continue and enhance the provision of a critical national law enforcement system. NAFIS NextGen will allow the ACIC to deliver an upgraded, fully supported system, with protected Government cloud capability, advanced latent fingerprint processing and integration with partner agency systems.”

“This will allow law enforcement agencies across Australia to use our biometric services to help solve crimes and keep our community safe.”

CEO Michael Phelan remarked. 

Australian law enforcement uses NAFIS to identify individuals from fingerprints or palm prints. The system helps to solve crimes by matching crime scene evidence to persons of interest. It enables near real-time uploads of prints from crime scenes, allowing police to identify suspects in minutes.

Australian law enforcement agencies search the system with 5.2 million fingerprint sets on average 4,245 times every day. While most identifications are for volume crime, such as unlawful entries to homes and thefts of cars, the system also assists police to identify suspects for more severe crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery.

In 2018, ACIC had to terminate its first attempt to overhaul its 20-year-old national fingerprint database. 

The value and terms of the deal were unclear when the agreement was made public. But contracts published last week show the agency will spend close to $180 million to upgrade the system over the next three years and then support it until 2034.

A $32 million project services contract will see IDEMIA “upgrade and enhance the system to deliver the NAFIS NextGen capability”.

Two managed services contracts worth $14.8 million and $130.8 million will support the NAFIS “until the upgraded capability is implemented in 2023” and the “upgraded capability out to 2034”.

NAFIS NextGen comes three years after ACIC was forced to dump its former NAFIS replacement project known as the biometrics identification solution (BIS) project.

The BIS project was intended to replace NAFIS, which was first established in April 2001, with a national biometrics database that included facial recognition capabilities.

Owing to delays with the project, ACIC terminated its contract with NEC Australia for the new national biometrics database, but not before spending $34 million.

In terminating the contract, ACIC said it saved itself $47 million. However, they had to sign contracts with IDEMIA to the value of $54 million to continue supporting the existing system.

According to the National Audit Office, the BIS project was ‘deficient in almost every significant respect.’