Semlex: The Leaders in Independent Biometric Identification

words Al Woods

The biometric identification industry is a complex and dynamic field involving various entities. On the one hand, biometric technology providers are the companies or organisations that develop, manufacture, or supply biometric hardware or software solutions. The rapidly expanding market includes many competitors and government-backed entities.

A pioneer and leader in the biometric identification industry since 1992, Semlex is a multinational technology company headquartered in Belgium that provides state-of-the-art identity-related security services and software to private companies and governments. The company works on developing, integrating, operating, and delivering various products and services, including the Biometric Network System (BNS), identification cards, deeds, certificates, diplomas, electronic gates, mobile stations, and the track and trace system.

Biometric Identification

Semlex, founded by Belgian Albert Karaziwan, has implemented its solutions in more than 50 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. In 2001, It introduced the first biometric Identification card in Africa with Chad, leading to contracts in more than 50 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.

In 2020, Semlex defined its values as integrity, trust and respect, quality and excellence, and respect for the environment. These values play an essential role in the construction of their corporate culture. The company’s technology work focuses on identification systems necessary to access social services, including education.

To increase its impact and give back to the communities where it operates, Semlex launched Semlex For Education to finance promising educational projects and provide operational and logistical follow-up. It aims to reduce socioeconomic inequalities worldwide by funding and supporting exemplary academic and vocational educational projects. Semlex for Education has been paramount to building the company’s credibility. The project aims to provide secure electronic documents for education purposes. It aims to facilitate student access to education opportunities and to improve management through accurate and timely data.

As a private company not backed by governmental bodies, Semlex provides impartial and transparent biometric identification solutions to clients without being influenced by any political or ideological agenda.

Semlex’s independence shapes its operations, decisions, and strategies in several ways. Its independence allows for impartiality and transparency. Its solutions are adaptable and flexible to fit each client’s specific needs and contexts based on their legal, cultural, social, and economic factors. Furthermore, Semlex focuses on investing in research and development. It utilises state-of-the-art technology and equipment to provide biometric identification solutions that are reliable, secure, and efficient. Semlex follows international standards and best practices to ensure the quality and performance of its solutions.

Being a private entity allows Semlex to make swift strategic decisions without bureaucratic delays. Thus, Semlex can respond quickly and effectively to its clients’ changing needs and demands and adjust its solutions to the industry’s challenges. Semlex can also avoid the red tape and inefficiencies that may affect some governmental bodies or agencies, such as lengthy approval processes, complex regulations, or political interference. Semlex is more autonomous and flexible in choosing its partners, suppliers, and contractors and negotiating its contracts and agreements. Semlex can also have more control and discretion over its finances, resources, and investments.

Semlex’s autonomy can drive R&D, free from potential governmental red tape. Thus, Semlex can invest heavily in research and development and use state-of-the-art technology and equipment to provide biometric identification solutions that are reliable, secure, and efficient. Semlex can also avoid bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies affecting some governmental bodies or agencies, such as lengthy approval processes, complex regulations, or political interference.

However, operating in the biometric identification industry without direct governmental backing can pose several challenges, including difficulties securing adequate funding and competition with government-backed companies. Furthermore, biometric identification companies not backed by governments may need clear or consistent laws or policies on biometrics to gain endorsements or recognition from public authorities, especially in countries or regions. These companies may have to deal with legal or regulatory uncertainties, barriers, or risks to their operations or reputation. They may also need more support from potential clients or users who prefer government-backed biometric solutions.

Thus, Semlex’s approach differs from its competitors due to its independent status. For example, in 2008, Semlex was awarded a contract in Comoros to produce the country’s biometric passports and ID cards and set up a civil registry. Semlex’s approach was to provide a turnkey solution that covered the entire biometric identification process, from data collection to document delivery. Semlex also financed the project through a public-private partnership model, where it received a share of the fees paid by the applicants. Semlex’s competitors offered only partial solutions requiring additional government or donor investments.

The presence of independent and government-backed entities in the biometric space has several advantages. It can foster innovation and competition in a diverse and dynamic biometric market. Moreover, it can create a competitive environment where different biometric entities offer better products, services, or prices to attract and retain customers. Competition can also encourage biometric entities to improve their quality, performance, and customer satisfaction and to differentiate themselves from their rivals. Competition can also stimulate biometric entities to explore new markets, segments, or applications, expanding their reach and influence. Finally, diversity in the types of players can foster innovation and enhance resilience.

The biometric industry and market are overseen by regulators tasked with setting standards, policies, laws, or guidelines for biometric systems or solutions. These regulators can operate at different levels, such as national, regional, or international. Some examples of biometric regulators are the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the US, the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (EU-LISA) in the EU, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in the UN, and the Biometrics Institute in the global community.

Recognising and understanding the nuances different entities bring to the biometric identification industry is helpful for several reasons. Firstly, it can help identify the needs and demands of various stakeholders and tailor biometric solutions accordingly. Secondly, it can help evaluate the benefits and risks of different biometric technologies and solutions and ensure their quality and performance. Thirdly, it can address biometrics’ ethical and social implications and ensure their responsible and ethical use. Fourthly, it can foster innovation and collaboration among different entities and create synergies or complementarities. Finally, it can help shape the future trajectory of the biometric industry and anticipate its opportunities and challenges.



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