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Britain's biometric ID cards postponed

Technical problems have delayed the British government's trials for biometric ID cards by three months.

Technical problems have delayed the British government's trials for biometric ID cards by three months.

The failure of fingerprint and iris-recognition equipment caused the delay, Home Secretary David Blunkett told members of Parliament this week.

The trial, involving the registration of 10,000 volunteers to record and test biometric ID data, was originally due to launch in February but did not begin until last week. As a result, the length of the project has been cut from six months to three months.

The U.K. Passport Service is running the project with its technology partner Atos Origin, which inherited the deal through its acquisition of SchlumbergerSema.

But at a Home Affairs select committee this week, Blunkett and the U.K. Passport service acknowledged that the system Atos Origin initially delivered had problems and was sent back to the company after a few weeks.

Problems with the hardware, software and the capture and recognition of data have forced adjustments to the resolution and focus of the facial-recognition camera, along with modifications to the background used for iris scanning.

A representative for the Home Office told that the problems have now been rectified.

"We have to make sure it is correctly configured before launching it. It's essential we get the first installation right before it is rolled out across the country. We'll learn our lessons from this," the representative said. "There were issues of failure in the equipment, but those have been rectified and the technical problems have been ironed out."

Atos Origin representatives were unavailable for comment. NEC, which is providing the fingerprint-recognition technology for the project, said the Home Office will not allow it to comment.