Facial recognition to back new public services card system

4 Jul 2011

The Department of Social Protection is inviting tenders for the supply of facial image matching software to back the issuing of new public services cards during the second half of this year.

The project is part of the department’s participation in the SAFE (standard authentication framework environment) programme, which aims to develop a standards-based approach to establishing and authenticating identity.

The department is a leading participant in the SAFE programme, which proposes a unified registration service which would allow a customer to register their identity for all public services. The department is to introduce a new unified registration service and will begin issuing a new public services card (PSC) in the second half of this year.

To facilitate the SAFE registration and the PSC production processes, the department has sourced software from a consortium involving Irish firm Daon’s capture technology and Cognitec Face VACS to support real-time capture of facial images using a webcam or camera and to accept images from scanned photographs.

The department expects 3m individuals will be registered to SAFE Level 2 – providing “substantial assurance” of identity – over a four-year period starting from now. 

According to the tender document, the proposed facial image matching software has to work in a range of potential scenarios. Although it doesn’t say this in so many words, the system should help in reducing duplicate applications and fraud.

While the software will perform one-to-one matching to determine if the person applying to renew their PSC is the same as the holder of the previous card, other scenarios include determining if a person applying for initial registration has previously applied under a different PPS number or using a different identity, and comparing against a hot list of photos or checking for potential duplicates when importing photos in bulk from other public service agencies.

The winning bid is due to be chosen by the end of September, with the software to be delivered, installed and configured in up to two Dublin-based locations within four weeks of the award of contract. The project is initially envisaged to run for five years.

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic