Gemalto Acquires 3M’s Biometric Mgt Business for Gov’t (Learn More)

Gemalto, has closed the acquisition of 3M’s Identity Management Business after approval by the relevant regulatory and antitrust authorities[1].

This strategic acquisition rounds out Gemalto’s Government Programs offering by adding biometric technologies and more secure document features and it ideally positions the Company to provide solutions for the promising commercial biometrics market.

The Identity Management Business will be integrated into Gemalto Government Programs business.

Philippe Vallée, Gemalto CEO
Philippe Vallée, Gemalto CEO

In 2016, the acquired business generated $202 million in revenue and an estimated $53 million in profit from operations[2].

“With the acquisition of 3M’s Identity Management Business, Gemalto makes a strategic move by in-sourcing biometric technology”, said Philippe Vallée, Gemalto CEO.

“Combining our market access, technologies and expertise will enable Gemalto to further accelerate the deployment of trusted national identities and to offer strong end-to-end biometric authentication solutions throughout the digital economy.”

“I warmly welcome the new teams joining Gemalto and we look forward to working closely together towards success.”

Biometrics for identification and authentication​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Faced with document fraud and identity theft, with new threats such as terrorism or cybercrime, and faced with the understandable changes in international regulations, new technological solutions are gradually being implemented.

One of these technologies, biometrics, has quickly established itself as the most pertinent means of identifying and authenticating individuals in a reliable and fast way, through the use of unique biological characteristics.

Today, many applications make use of this technology.

That which in the past was reserved for sensitive applications such as the security of military sites is now developing rapidly through applications in the public domain.

What is biometrics?

Biometrics is the science of analyzing physical or behavioral characteristics specific to each individual in order to be able to authenticate their identity.

If we were to define biometry or biometrics in the most simple sense,  we would say the “measurement of the human body”.

Biometric in use in identification

There are two categories of biometric technologies: ​

​Physiological measurements

They can be either morphological or biological. These mainly consist of fingerprints, the shape of the hand, of the finger, vein pattern, the eye (iris and retina), and the shape of the face, for morphological analyses.

For biological analyses, DNA, blood, saliva or urine may be used by medical teams and police forensics.

Behavioral measurements

The most common are voice recognition, signature dynamics (speed of movement of pen, accelerations, pressure exerted, inclination), keystroke dynamics, the way objects are used, gait, the sound of steps, gestures, etc.

The different techniques used are the subject of ongoing research and development, and, of course, are being constantly improved.

However, the different sorts of measurements do not all have the same level of reliability. Physiological measurements are usually considered to offer the benefit of remaining more stable throughout the life of an individual. For example, they are not as subject to the effects of stress, in contrast to identification by behavioral measurement.

Biometrics allows a person to be identified and authenticated based on a set of recognizable and verifiable data, which are unique and specific to them.

Biometric identification consists of determining the identity of a person.

  • The aim is to capture an item of biometric data from this person, for example by taking a photo of their face, by recording their voice, or by capturing an image of their fingerprint.
  • This data is then compared to the biometric data of several other persons kept in a database.
  • In this mode, the question being asked is a simple one: “Who are you?”

Biometric authentication, also known as verification, is the process of comparing data for the person’s characteristics to that person’s biometric “template” in order to determine resemblance.

  • The reference model is first store in a database or a secure portable element like a smart card.
  • The data stored is then compared to the person’s biometric data to be authenticated.
  • Here it is the person’s identity which is being verified.
  • In this mode, the question being asked is: “Are you indeed Mr or Mrs X?”

Biometric identification

Biometrics as inextricably linked to the question of identity

There are three possible ways of proving one’s identity: 

  1. by means of something that you possess. Until now, this was something that was relatively easy to do, whether it was by using the key to one’s vehicle, a document, a card, or a badge.
  2. by means of something that you know, a name, a secret or a password.
  3. by means of what you are, your fingerprint, your hand, your face.

The use of biometrics has a number of benefits, the leading one being the level of security and accuracy* that it guarantees. In contrast to passwords, badges, or documents, biometric data cannot be forgotten, exchanged, or stolen, and cannot be forged.

*According to calculations made by Sir Francis Galton (Darwin’s cousin), the probability of finding two similar fingerprints is one in 64 billion even with identical twins (homozygotes).

It is in this sense that biometrics is inextricably linked to the question of identity.

What is biometrics used for ?

These applications are predominantly introduced by national authorities, as the biometric enrollment and management of a population’s fingerprints call for a tightly regulated legal and technical framework. 

The application which has been most widely deployed to date is the electronic passport (epassport), particularly with the second generation of such documents also known as biometric passports, on which two fingerprints are stored in addition to a passport photo.

(Requesting a travel visa via an NFC phone is now possible! Read passport data directly from the passport, and when the visa is received via email, you can upload it to your passport. Courtesy of Gemalto and YouTube)

Biometrics provides irrefutable evidence of the link between the document and its holder.

Another advantage of this solution is that it speeds up border crossing through the use of scanners, which use the principle of recognition by comparison of the face and/or fingerprints.

Other applications exist, chiefly national identity cards, widespread in European and Middle East countries or in Africa for ID and health insurance programs, such as in Gabon.

With these biometric ID cards, fingerprints are used to confirm the identity of the bearer of the card before he or she is given access to governmental services or healthcare. 

(Learn More. Courtesy of Gemalto and YouTube)

In addition, many countries have set up biometric infrastructures to control migration flows to and from their territories.

Fingerprint scanners and cameras installed at border posts capture certain types of information that help identify travelers entering the country in a more precise and reliable way. In some countries, the same applies in consulates to visa applications and renewals.

Data acquisition requires reliable equipment to ensure optimum capture of photos and fingerprints, essential for precision during comparison and verification.

AFIS databases (Automated Fingerprint Identification System), often linked to a civil register database, ensure the identity and uniqueness of the citizen in relation to the rest of the population in a reliable, fast and automated way.

They can combine digital fingerprints, a photo and an iris scan for greater reliability.

Biometric passport Finland

Cutting-edge technologies combining security and comfort

Biometrics offers a broad range of techniques and can be used in a wide variety of different domains, ranging from State security to the comfort of individuals. 

Biometric techniques are mainly used in the sectors of forensic identification, identity management, as well as access control and administration, both in private and public institutions.

The effectiveness of this technology is closely linked to the use of data processing. Data is stored in files to enable rapid and reliable identification, which in turn guarantees both comfort and security.

The most well-known techniques include fingerprints, face recognition, iris, palm and DNA-based recognition.

Research is currently opening the way for new types of biometrics, such as ear shape or facial thermography.

Whatever the method, what all these biometric techniques have in common is that they all collect characteristics which are:

  • Universal, as they can be found in all individuals
  • Unique, as they make it possible to differentiate one individual from another
  • Permanent, allowing for change over time
  • Recordable, as the characteristics of an individual cannot be collected without their consent
  • Measurable, allowing for future comparison, and
  • Forgery-proof.

To increase security and accuracy, multimodal biometrics combines several biometric sources.

Multimodal biometric systems usually require two biometric credentials for positive identification such as face and fingerprints instead of one​. They are able to overcome limitations ​ commonly encountered in unimodal systems.

To learn more about Gemalto’s wide range of Government Programs, visit the company website at


[1] Local share transfer formalities are still underway in two countries and are expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2017.

[2] Source: Proforma carve-out financials based on due diligence