RealTime IT News

HP to Help Protect Borders

The European Commission (EC) has contracted HP to help protect the borders of 10 member countries, the company said today.

The computer and printer maker is under a $48.5 million agreement in collaboration with IT services global operator Steria, as well as two other European companies -- Mummert in Germany and Primesphere in Luxembourg. The consortium is responsible for developing the second generation of the Schengen Information System (SIS II) and the Visa Information System (VIS).

The SIS is the largest border control and police information system in the world. Fifteen EU countries, including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain, currently use the existing SIS.

With a Schengen visa, travelers may enter one country and travel freely throughout the Schengen zone with few or no stops and checks. This means that internal air, road and train travel are handled as domestic trips, similar to travel from one state to another in the U.S.

Its replacement, SIS II, is a database that gives national police authorities of all participating member states' information on criminals and terrorists, as well as stolen vehicles, ID documents and banknotes.

Once it is fully functional in 2007, the EC said the SIS II will be much more flexible than the current system and will also be able to store photographic images and fingerprints. In addition, HP said the infrastructure of the new system will make it easier to adapt to future EU requirements.

"Ensuring citizen safety and security requires that technologies be able to adapt to the demands of global migration, border security, terrorism and crime prevention," Bernard Meric, a senior vice president and managing director with HP's Europe Middle East and Africa group, said in a statement. "These demands are constantly changing, expanding in scope and can be unpredictable in nature.

VIS is a new centrally deployed, large-scale information system that will allow member state authorities to access all visa requests for entry to Schengen area countries. It is expected that there will be more than 20 million visa requests and more than 45 million requests to check the validity of issued visas made yearly.

Under the terms of the agreement, the group will provide the EC with HP Integrity Superdome servers based on Intel Itanium processors, high-end and high-availability storage and HP OpenView systems management. Within the consortium, HP's role will be providing ongoing monitoring and support services.

The four companies said they have already begun building the new systems. The commission is expected to validate them in 2007.