The UK Passport Agency has awarded a multi-million pound contract to Siemens AG’s Business Services division to develop, implement and manage an automated digital system for passport application processing. The ten-year deal is a Private Finance Initiative between the Agency, Siemens and The Stationery Office, and the planned objectives are fast, seamless processing with enhanced security. The Agency faces rumps of work at certain times of the year, and this deal is about using technology to provide a better processing system and increased security, says Sheila Beck, head of Siemens government strategies. Interior minister, Mike O’Brian, commented: The threat to the security of the passport is growing and we aim to counter this with the introduction of a printed, digitized facial image of the holder and their signature in the passport book. Siemens will replace the Agency’s 10-year old PIMIS systems with NT and Unix servers, and Beck says that Siemens may incorporate other vendors’ kit during the period. It won the deal in competition with IBM Corp and Electronic Data Systems Inc. The new passports will be printed and issued by The Stationery Office under a second contract, with new passports issued by early 1999.