Building a Biometric-Security Powerhouse, Piece by Piece

It wasn’t top-of-the-fold news, at least not on the surface, but Viisage Technology Inc., which makes identification systems using facial-recognition technologies, announced an acquisition of privately held Iridian Technologies Inc., a developer of iris-recognition technology, for $35 million in cash today.

Viisage pursued Iridian primarily for its intellectual property, which apparently includes the development of software that can capture iris images from tens of feet away, even if the target is not standing still.

This acquisition news becomes extremely significant when you understand that Viisage Technology Inc.’s chairman of the board is Robert V. LaPenta, founder and CEO of L-1 Investment Partners, LLC, and a former executive at Loral Communications and a subsequent founder and driving force behind the success of defense contractor  L-3 Communications. LaPenta is well connected to the defense establishment and the Pentagon, and his past corporate performance includes more than 60 acquisitions compiled during 30 years of executive-management experience.

Viisage’s acquisition of Iridian will be financed through $100-million in investment funds that  L-1 forked over at the end of last year.  In January of this year, L-1 played matchmaker in Viisage’s acquisition of fingerprint-biometrics company Identix for approximately $770 million. Just a month later, Viisage acquired SecuriMetrics Inc., a company specializing in iris-scanning technology, for $28 million in cash.

When this deal is complete, and with all the puzzle pieces seemingly sliding into place, LaPenta will step from behind the curtain to take center stage. He proposes to rename Viisage, calling it L-1 Identity Solutions to better reflect the company’s extensive line of biometrics products and solutions. The resulting company has all the biometric-security elements: fingerprint authentication, facial-recognition verification, and iris-scanning technology.

L-1 Identity Solutions will make a sales pitch that each biometric-security technology has value, but that all of them together are imperative for the most sensitive types of intelligence or defense applications. If you look at LaPenta’s track record and his business contacts, it’s hard not to think that his pitch won’t find more than a few buyers.

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