Earlier this year, Sopra Steria, as part of a consortium with IDEMIA, a global leader in biometric identification solutions, was awarded a framework contract for the delivery of a new shared biometric matching system (sBMS) to the European Union. As I’ve already pointed out in a previous blog post, by 2022 this 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. But to what purpose exactly?
In a general sense, the sBMS is aimed at fighting against irregular immigration and trans-border crime. To that purpose it will enable the querying and comparison of biometric data for the correct verification and identification of persons entering and leaving the Schengen Area. In this travel zone, 26 European countries have abolished their internal borders, allowing people to move freely and without restriction between those countries. The system will specifically apply to all third-country nationals who intend to stay in that Schengen Area for a short duration (maximum 90 days in any 180 days period). It will register the entry, exit and refusal of entry data of all third-country nationals crossing the external borders of the Member States.
Long-term purpose: a common biometric platform
In the long term, the use of the latest biometric technologies will make it possible to ensure the protection of our external borders. To that purpose, the sBMS will enable querying and comparison of biometric data simultaneously from several central EU information systems. Some of these systems are already in use, such as the Schengen Information System (SIS II), the Visa Information System (VIS) and the European Asylum Dactyloscopy Database (EURODAC). Others, like the European Criminal Records Information System for Third Country Nationals (ECRIS-TCN), are still under development. (For a quick introduction to those central EU systems, check out this earlier post by my colleague Julien Heintz.)
While each of these central information systems has a dedicated, proprietary search engine for biometric data, the sBMS will provide a common platform where biometric templates computed from the original biometric data are stored, queried and compared simultaneously. The biometric data includes fingerprint, facial images and, in the future, palm prints.
Medium-term purpose: matching EES with sBMS
Once the sBMS has integrated all the existing and upcoming biometric databases of the European Union, it will definitely turn out to be one of the world’s largest biometric systems. In the medium term, however, the purpose is simply to match the biometric data in the sBMS with the future Entry/Exit System (EES), hence becoming the EES-BMS. Developed to facilitate the processing of third-country nationals crossing the EU external borders, the EES is scheduled to go live in 2022. First serving the identification needs of this new Entry/Exit System, the sBMS will effectively function as the cornerstone for the protection of European borders.