The contract was awarded following a competitive call for tender (LISA/2019/RP/05 EES BMS and sBMS) by eu-LISA. Under the contract, which has a four year term extendable for up to six years, the consortium needs to complete the development of the sBMS by 2022.
The sBMS will be one of the largest biometric systems in the world, integrating a database of over 400 million third-country nationals with their fingerprints and facial images.
In April 2016, the European Commission introduced the concept of interoperability of systems in the Justice and Home Affairs domain and established it as a political priority. One of the building blocks of the foreseen interoperability architecture was an sBMS providing horizontal standardised biometric capabilities to various large-scale information systems.
The sBMS will be instrumental in building Europe’s Entry/Exit System (EES), a database that among other things is set to replace passport stamps and enhance border security in the EU.
Once the EES becomes effective, it will register entry and exit data of non-EU nationals crossing the external borders of the Schengen Area member states. All embassies and other authorities responsible for processing Schengen visa applications will consult the EES before granting, extending, annulling or revoking a Schengen visa.
According to a press release from the consortium, the sBMS will be ‘based on European biometrics technology, and initially serve the identification needs of the new EES, thus being the cornerstone of the protection of European borders.’
The release also notes that the shared Biometric Matching System will make possible the protection of the external borders in the long term by helping in the fight against irregular immigration and trans-border crime.
Aside from the future EES, the sBMS will also serve the following EU security systems:
- Schengen Information System (SIS) – since 2001, this has been used by 31 European countries to find information about individuals and entities for the purposes of national security, border control and law enforcement;
- Visa Information System (VIS) – an IT system that allows Schengen states to exchange visa data;
- Eurodac (European Asylum Dactyloscopy Database) – makes it easier for EU states to determine responsibility for examining an asylum application by comparing fingerprint datasets;
- ECRIS-TCN (European Criminal Records Information System for Third Country Nationals) – contains the identity data (alphanumeric and fingerprints) of convicted TCNs from the national criminal record systems of all member states.
The companies forming the consortium have been supporting the EU in the management of other large-scale IT systems including VIS, SIS and Eurodac for more than 15 years. They have experience of working with the national and local administrations of EU member states and private sector partners to manage the movement of people across air, land and sea borders.
‘As European leader in digital transformation and Homeland Security, Sopra Steria is proud to extend its long-standing partnership with eu-LISA contributing to the implementation of an essential and central piece not only for the future Entry/Exit System but also for the other core business systems. I am convinced that this consortium brings the best solution and service offer to accompany eu-LISA in the achievement of its challenges and to deliver the future shared biometric system with high value for its users’, said Laurent Giovachini, Deputy CEO of Sopra Steria.
Fellow consortium member Philippe Barreau, Group Executive Vice President, Public Security & Identity at IDEMIA, added: ‘we thank eu-LISA for their renewed trust. As a contributor of the Smart Borders Initiative from the first discussions with the European Commission, IDEMIA is looking forward to shaping the outcome of this major project, based on our comprehensive understanding of the European current systems. Alongside our partners, we will bring best-in-class biometric technology and our full commitment to contribute to one of the most challenging large-scale biometric databases of the world in terms of accuracy and response time for a safer Europe.’