-A +A

ID CARDS : 2 - Company Profiles

admin's picture

The profiles that follow are a selection of the companies which have shown an interest in involvement in implementing ID cards. They are intended to suggest what types of companies may be involved in the scheme and give an idea of their records in government procurement, where relevant. The selection should in no way be taken to indicate relative importance of the companies concerned or perceived likelihood of winning contracts should the ID cards scheme become law. Unreferenced information is taken from companies' websites.

Atos Origin

Atos Origin has the contract for NHS e-booking; the British Medical Association had previously expressed concerns about the security of the system.

Atos Origin is an international IT services company with annual revenues around £3bn and 50,000 employees in 50 countries.

Atos Origin has the contract for the NHS e-booking system[11] , which is currently running around 12 months behind schedule[12] . A National Audit Office report in January 2005[13] suggested the major fault for delays does not lie with the company, but there were problems with implementation and the British Medical Association had previously expressed concerns about the security of the system[14] . The company is open about its interest in the ID cards scheme and ran the pilot scheme examining biometric registration for passports and ID cards in 2004.

Atos Origin UK - Fulcrum House, 2 Killick Street, London N1 9JZ Tel: 0207 830 4444

BT Global Services

BT Global Services, formerly BT Syntegra, is the business services section of the BT Group.

BT Global Services' Chief Executive, Andy Green in October told The Business, 'We are looking closely at the national ID cards project where we believe BT's extensive networking experience would be invaluable[15].' BT has met with Home Office officials to discuss the scheme[16] , and co-sponsored the Intellect organised 'Identity Cards - The Next Steps' conference in May 2004 [17].

BT has attracted controversy in major government contracts. For example, problems at the Child Support Agency were exacerbated by the fact that BT Syntegra's telephone system routed calls to the wrong offices around the country.

BT Global Services - BT Centre, 81 Newgate Street, London EC1A 7AJ Tel: 0207 356 5000 ww.BTglobalservices.com

Electronic Data Systems (EDS)

EDS's government contracts, such as the Tax Credits system, have been plagued with controversy. By the end of the tax year 2003/04, 23,000 claimants were underpaid a total of £8 million.

Texas-based Electronic Data Systems (EDS) is the worlds second- largest IT services company. The company's contracts with UK government departments represent two thirds of EDS's total revenue in the UK[18].

EDS's current contracts include the Ministry of Defence (worth £2.3 billion over 10 years[19]), the Department for Work and Pensions (£2.6 billion over 5 years[20]), the Courts Service (£20 million[21]), HM Prison Service(£200 million over 10 years[22] plus a new £39 million contract to run the National Offender Management Information System[23] ) and the Metropolitan Police.

EDS's government contracts have been plagued with controversy:

  • Tax credits: The Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits system was launched in April 2003. By the end of the tax year 2003/04 one third of all tax credit awards had been overpaid[24] , totalling £2.2 billion[25] , and 713,000 households had been underpaid a total of £464 million[26].. 82,000 low income households were forced to make repayments[27]. Following a lengthy dispute over compensation payments, EDS made an out of court settlement to HM Revenue and Customs of £71.25 million[28] .This is the largest disclosed compensation payment from a supplier for failure of a government IT contract[29]. The system is now being run by Cap Gemini, Ernst & Young and Fujitsu services[30].
  • Child Support Agency: EDS installed this IT system 18 months late in March 2003, leading to calls for the IT system, and even the agency itself to be scrapped[31] . The total cost of the project, with the contract running to 2010, is estimated at £456 million[32] . A Work and Pensions Select committee inquiry into the scandal showed how IT problems hampered the progress of cases and slowed down the assessment of maintenance payments[33] . Between 3 March 2003 and 19 September 2004, the Agency retained £12.1 million of payments to EDS.

EDS' involvement in ID cards

EDS co-sponsored the 'Identity Cards - The Next Steps' conference in May 2004 and gave an industry presentation[34]. EDS was also joint sponsor (with Thales) of the 'Digital Identity' conference in November 2004[35].

In June 2005 The Business magazine revealed that:

EDS has been heavily involved with the Home Office team preparing the way for the multi-billion pound identity cards project for almost two years. Ministers have admitted that members of their ID card project team held face-to-face meetings with EDS officials during [...]the last session of parliament. [36]

EDS is the largest issuer of smart cards in the US, where it is responsible for the Department of Defense Common Access Card, and the Transportation Security Agency's Registered Traveler programme. EDS UK: 2nd Floor, Landsdowne House, Berkeley Square, W1J 6ER Tel. 0207 569 5100

Iridian Technologies

Iris recognition technology has never been used on a scale anywhere close to that envisaged in the UK ID cards scheme. Difficulties face people with even minor eye conditions. Up to 2% of the community will not be able to register an iris scan.

US-based Iridian Technologies holds patents on the core concepts and technologies behind iris recognition. The first commercial product reached the market in 1998. The technology has never been used on a scale anywhere close to that envisaged in the UK ID cards scheme.

The London School of Economics' recent report into ID cards presents evidence to show that, while iris scanning technology is more accurate than other biometrics, substantial practical difficulties face people with even minor eye conditions or visual aids using the technology. Iridian admits that up to 2% of the community will not be able to register an iris scan.

Since Iridian is the sole patent holder, the use of iris recognition technologies in the UK ID cards scheme is likely to be a an expensive option.

Iridian Technologies - 1245 Church Street, Suite 3, Moorestown, New Jersey, 08057 USA Tel: +41-79-213-76-44


NEC Security Solutions has over 60% of the worldwide fingerprint market, however, even the world's most reliable system has an accuracy of only 96.8%.

NEC (formerly Nippon Electronics Company) is Japanese based global electronics company. It has 147, 800 employees and in 2004 had a turnover of over $47 billion.

NEC Security Solutions is a world leader in biometric identification systems. It has over 60% of the worldwide fingerprint market and its systems are claimed to be some of the most reliable in the world - however, even the world's most reliable system has an accuracy of only 96.8%.

NEC has considerable experience in ID cards, including the world's largest biometric database for the South African Home Affairs National Identity System (HANIS) (issued to over 45 million adults) and the Macau national ID card.

NEC also provides digital fingerprinting technology to the City of London Police.

NEC (UK) Ltd - NEC House, 1 Victoria Road, London W3 6BL Tel: 0208 993 8111

PA Consulting Group

PA Consulting Group is a management, systems and technology consulting firm. It employs more than 3,000 people in 35 countries.

PA Consulting is the Home Office's 'Development Partner' for the ID cards scheme, on a contract likely to be worth at least £19 million over 18 months[37] . It is unclear exactly how many PA Consulting employees are currently working on the scheme, but there were reported to be forty in January 2005 - it seems unlikely that this number would have gone down[38] .

In 2000, PA Consulting was employed to advise on the awarding of the contract to set up the Criminal Records Bureau, responsible for legally required criminal record checks on people working with children. PA's advice sent the contract to Capita, whose mismanagement led to months of delays, causing problems for thousands of job applicants, a cost overrun of £68.2m and eventually a recommendation by the National Audit Office that the contract be renegotiated[39].

PA Consulting Group 123 Buckingham Palace Road, SW1W 9SR Tel: 0207 730 9000

Siemens Business Services

SBS representatives contradicted themselves by describing biometric technologies as 'emergent' and 'future technologies' before claiming that they are 'well proven'.

Siemens Business Services (SBS), a subsidiary of German-based Siemens AG, provides information technology, networking and large scale installations and systems maintenance. SBS's current UK government contracts include a 10 year contract with the National Assembly for Wales worth over £200 million, and a 10 year contract with the UK Passport Service for an automated passport processing system, which will be updated to allow for biometric passports.

SBS has been awarded a number of large scale IT contracts some of which have resulted in extremely high profile failures, costing the taxpayer millions:

  • Passport Agency: Problems with the launch of the contract with SBS caused meltdown in the Passport Agency in 1999. The software was incapable of dealing with the volume of work, resulting in a backlog of 565,000 passports and delays of up to 50 days in the processing of applications. The delays led to £12.6 million of extra costs to the Agency, only £2.45 million of which were paid for by the company [40].
  • Immigration and Nationality Directorate: In April 1996 SBS won a contract to deliver a new system to speed up the processing of asylum applications. The system was due to go live in October 1998 but failures with the software meant that only a interim system was rolled out in 2000, and the full system was dropped in February 2001. Computer Weekly commented that 'the IND's attempt to modernise its systems could go down in the text books as a classic example of how not to manage an IT project[41].

SBS has provided card based systems in Italy, Germany, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, Singapore, India, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine, and biometric cards utilising iris recognition technology in Singapore[42]. SBS co-sponsored the 'ID Cards: The Next Steps' conference in May 2004 and gave a presentation.

In a media statement SBS representatives contradicted themselves by describing the biometric technologies envisaged by the ID cards legislation as 'emergent' and 'future technologies' before claiming that they are 'well proven'[43] .

Siemens Business Services: Siemens House, Oldbury, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 8FZ Tel. 01344 784300


Thales is a French-based global electronics company working in aerospace, defence and information technology. It is 33% owned by the French state[44].

In the UK Thales has over 10,000 employees based at 60 locations. Thales UK is the UK's second largest supplier of military equipment[45] . Beyond defence, one of Thales' core activities is security with services including secure identification solutions and IT security.

Along with EDS, Thales Security Systems was one of the principal sponsors of the 'Digital Identity' conference in November 2004[46]. In 2002 Thales won a contract for the production of ID cards for the People's Republic of China - a project subsequently mentioned in a report by Amnesty International into the misuse of security technologies by oppressive regimes[47]. In 2005 it won a similar contract in Morocco. Thales has also supplied smartcard technology to the US, South Africa, Namibia, Poland and the Netherlands.

Thales UK - 2 Dashwood Lang Road, The Bourne Business Park, Addlestone, Nr Weybridge, Surrey KT15 2NX Tel: 01932 824800


US-based Unisys is an IT and consulting company specialising in server technology and systems design and with experience in smart cart technology.

In June 2005 Unisys co-sponsored the 'Towards Procurement and Implementation' conference on ID cards, at which ID cards Program Director Katherine Courtney was a key speaker[48] . The following month Unisys sponsored a Fabian Society seminar on ID cards featuring Home Office minister Tony McNulty[49].

Unisys was involved in introducing the national ID card system in Panama. In 2002 Panama's electoral commission cancelled the four-year contract for the high tech digital cards. Unisys was sacked after a Colombian man was found illegally holding 500 blank cards and the company admitted that it too had 30,000 blank cards, all of which should have been handed to the Panamanian government. The company has also been involved in issuing ID cards in Malaysia.

Unisys Ltd - Bakers Court, Bakers Road, Uxbridge UB8 1RG Tel: 01895 237137


[11] - This contract was in fact awarded to Schlumberger Sema, which was subsequently taken over and subsumed into Atos Origin in January 2004. We refer to the company by its current name of Atos Origin throughout to avoid confusion.

[12] - Evidence given by Sir Nigel Crisp, Chief Executive of the NHS, to the Public Accounts Committee 31/10/05 (transcript of uncorrected oral evidence)

[13] - National Audit Office report 'Patient Choice at the Point of GP Referral' January 2005

[14] - Computer Weekly 'NHS e-booking system hits problems' 30/11/04

[15] - The Business, 'BT and EDS to join ID Card Bid Battle' Tony Glover, October 23, 2005

[16] - The Times, 'Government in ID card talks with firms before Bill passed', Elizabeth Judge and Sam Coates 30/05/05

[17] - Intellect UK press release, 'Up to the Challenge - ICT Industry Demonstrates ID Cards Delivery', 24/05/04

[18] - Financial Times 'EDS pays £71 million to settle Revenue claim' Nicholas Timmins 23/11/05

[19] - Government News Network, 'Ministry of Defence signs contract with the Atlas consortium for the Defence Information Infrastructure (future) project' 22/3/05

[20] - Government News Network 'Renewed partnership between EDS and DWP gives substantial savings to department and improved contract structure for EDS' 24/8/05.

[21] - Government News Network, 'Old Bailey gets new technology - halfway mark for Xhibit as witnesses in over half our crown courts get information quicker' 26/10/05

[22] - Computer Weekly, 'Prisons and Probation Services to merge, but IT questions remain' James Rogers 27/11/03

[23] - silicon.com 'EDS wins £39m justice system deal' 4/8/05, ,

[24] - Child and Working Tax Credits Statistics, Finalised awards 2003-04, Supplement on payments in 2003-04, HM Revenue and Customs Analysis Team, National Statistics, 2005.

[25] - HM Revenue & Customs, 'Spring Departmental Report', Oral Evidence given to the Treasury Select Committee by Mr David Varney, Executive Chairman, Mr Paul Gray, Deputy Chairman and Miss Sarah Walker, Director, Benefits and Credits, HM Revenue & Custo

[26] - Parliamentary Ombudsman, 'Tax Credits: putting things right', 3rd Report-Session 2005-2006 HC 124 (2005-2006) 21/6/05

[27] - ibid

[28] - HM Revenue & Customs press release, 'Settlement of Dispute between HMRC and EDS', 22 November 2005,

[29] - The Observer reported that HMRC was seeking compensation of £600 million. Ned Temko, 'Revenue may sue credits IT firm' The Observer, 26/6/05

[30] - The Business 'Tax Credit Firm in New ID Card Contracts Row' Brian Brady 26/6/05

[31] - Work and Pensions Committee Press Notice, 'The Child Support Agency Must Improve Its Service Within Weeks Or Face Being Scrapped ' 26/01/05

[32] - Work and Pensions Select Committee report, 'The Performance of the Child Support Agency' 26 /1/05, paragraph 63

[33] - Ibid, paragraph 46

[34] - Intellect UK press release, 'Up to the Challenge - ICT Industry Demonstrates ID Cards Delivery', 24/05/04

[35] - Program for 5th Digital Identity Forum, 'Moving Digital ID to Population Scale'

[36] - The Business 'Tax Credit Firm in New ID Card Contracts Row' Brian Brady 26/6/05

[37] - Accountancy Age 'PA Consulting bill for ID cards to bust £18m estimate' James Bennett and Kevin Reed 14/7/05

[38] - Daily Telegraph, 'Clarke's ID card 'army' sets up camp early' 10/1/05

[39] - National Audit Office report 'Criminal Records Bureau - Delivering Safer Recruitment?' February 2004

[40] - Computer Weekly 'Report slams agency over passport fiasco' Mike Simons 29/6/00

[41] - Computer Weekly 'Home Office cancels key immigration IT system' 15/2/01

[42] - Electronic Government 'A national ID scheme in the UK: principles and practical experience' Louise Beaumont and Declan Ross-Thomas November 2004

[43] - Intellect Press Release 'Up to the Challenge - ICT Industry Demonstrates ID Cards Delivery' , 24/05/04,

[44] - Campaign Against the Arms Trade briefing on Thales viewed 3/1/06

[45] - ibid.

[46] - Program for 5th Digital Identity Forum, 'Moving Digital ID to Population Scale'

[47] - Amnesty International report, 'Undermining Global Security: the European Union's arms exports' 2003

[48] - Source Watch article 'ID Cards: Towards Procurement and Implementation' June 2005

[49] - Fabian Society event report 'McNulty signals need to rethink ID card strategy' Greg Crouch 4/8/05