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James Bond has used biometrics for nearly four decades. After several false starts, the technology is finally fit for the rest of us. Now, solutions providers are eager to cash in.

Just ask Unisys Corp.,
which has won a 20-month contract with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) worth up to $17 million. Under terms of the deal, Unisys will deploy biometric and surveillance technologies at 20 undisclosed airports. The biometric technologies will potentially include fingerprinting, facial recognition and iris scanning.

Admittedly, early sales of biometric technologies didn’t live up to expectations. The International Biometric Group (IBG) LLC says worldwide biometric sales were a nominal $600 million in 2002. Still, IBG expects biometrics sales to top $4 billion by 2007, as more and more companies move from passwords to fingerprints or iris scans to permit network and building access.

So, where do solutions providers fit in? The five top vertical markets for such systems are government, travel/transportation, financial services, health care and law enforcement. More than half of early biometric sales involve finger-scanning devices, followed by biometric middleware linked to databases (12.4 percent) facial scanning (11.4 percent), hand scanning (10 percent) and iris scanning (7.3 percent).

Deal 2 – Making a Midsize Play: Ingram Micro Inc.,
the largest computer distributor, has strengthened ties with Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. in a bid to corner the midsize customer market. Ingram Micro estimates that there are more than 100,000 midsize U.S. businesses (defined as companies with 100 to 999 employees). Want a piece of the action? Take a look at some of Ingram Micro’s latest mid-market partners: Net IQ,
PGP Corp.,
and VMWare.

Deal 3 – International Ambitions: Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC)
hopes to conquer foreign lands. The El Segundo, Calif.-based solutions provider may acquire two European solutions providers between now and the spring, according to an interview with CSC Europe Chairman Claude Czechowski, which was published last week in La Tribune. During its most recent quarter ended Oct. 3, CSC’s year-over-year European revenue rose 21.1 percent to $852 million.

That’s impressive, but competition looms. SBI Group
of Salt Lake City, for one, has amassed a 13.4 percent stake in Framfab, a Stockholm-based digital media specialist whose clientele includes 3M, IKEA and Kellogg’s. If you’re thinking of selling your business, give SBI a call. The company has acquired several dot-com integrators that crashed and burned during Wall Street’s correction, including Emerald Solutions, Lante, MarchFirst, Razorfish and Scient.

Deal 4 – Changing its Stripes: Remember Cabletron Systems, one of the many switch makers that Cisco Systems ultimately crushed? I spent my early journalism career interviewing Cabletron founder Craig Benson (now governor of New Hampshire), a colorful guy who often told me that Cabletron would never sell through solutions providers. Benson changed his tune before leaving Cabletron in 1999. Today, Cabletron—recast as Enterasys Networks
—relies heavily on channel partners like Agilysys Inc.

Earlier this month, the City of Alexandria, La., activated an Enterasys-based network designed by Agilysys. The switching infrastructure supports a customer service database, the city’s payroll system and various Web applications.

Okay, that’s a bit short on detail. But the important point is Enterasys’s growing commitment to solutions providers. I’ve heard it from Agilysys. And I’ve heard it from service providers like MSPX in Arlington, Va. I wonder if any Cisco partners will sit up and take notice.

About Contract Watch: Each week, this column examines customer engagements that are stirring the channel, and the solutions providers behind them. Our goal is to strip away the hype and tell you what’s really selling—and what isn’t—in today’s IT marketplace. Send your tips to my e-mail address below.

Joseph C. Panettieri ( has covered Silicon Valley since 1992. He is editorial director of the New York Institute of Technology and founder of JCP Media Inc .