September 6, 2011: New Zealand Post has moved in on the lucrative ID/passport photo niche with its commissioning of the Daon biometric photo capture system.
The Daon system from US company of the same name can remotely control the passport camera, raise and lower a background screen, and check whether photos will meet the requirements of the client – such as the New Zealand passport office – before they are taken.
Other modules in the Daon system enable fingerprint and voice identification as well as biometric portrait capture.
Until now, according to NZ retailer Tony Scott (Wairarapa Camera Services), New Zealand Post’s involvement in ID photos has been limited to providing an age verification card for younger people wanting to enter licenced premises or buy alcohol.
However, the applicant had to supply their own photos.
‘The big boys are about to pick off another of the small lucrative niche markets that helps keep the photo retailer afloat,’ said Tony Scott.
‘Passport photos have become good business for many photographic retailers in NZ due to the stringent conditions imposed by the authorities.
‘In our small community only two retailers are now in the passport business, serving a community of around 40,000 people.
‘There were many more, a number of chemists, a few photographers and a few travel agents were all in the business of taking passports. Now that’s all to change with the NZ Post getting into the act,.’ he said.
‘The position in New Zealand is different to Australia,’ explained John Rule (Polaroid/Hagemeyer) who has been working with PMA in Australia on the vexed issue of keeping at least some of the passport photo business within the photo channel. ‘We – PMA as a group – have worked closely with DFAT and with our industry, to ensure compliance.’
He said that industry lobbying by himself and PMA had stalled past DFAT plans to more closely control passport photos.
‘Data from DFAT clearly shows that the failure rate of passports taken via independent stores is far less than those taken via post offices. We have been using this argument consistently to try and include independent stores in the picture taking process.
‘In the New Zealand case, as I understand it, there have been many compliance issues, and as the country is geographically smaller, it’s simpler for the NZ Government to fast track a biometric capture system.’
If the trial in 14 Postshops is successful the passport photo system would be installed in 150 of the 280 Postshop Kiwibank outlets.
Cost is NZ$20 for a set of six prints. A New Zealand Post spokesperson was quoted in the Wellington-based Dominion Post as saying that the state-owned enterprise’s main goal ‘was not to take on the high street chemist.’
New Zealand Post will use the system to enrol people in the NZ Government’s NZ$122 million iGovt identity verification scheme.
New Zealand Post said in a statement: “The photo capture/face quality assessment capability is a significant point of difference to what else is available in the New Zealand market. The passport photo hardware is automated and intuitive for correct positioning.
‘Photos cannot be taken until a number of automated criteria such as lighting, position, eyes open etc, meet pre-determined passport photo requirements.
‘There is significantly less chance of a PostShop photo being rejected by the relevant passport authority,’ New Zealand Post is offering to provide a free replacement set of photos if they are rejected.
In Australia, around 1300 Australia Post retail outlets nationally offer a ID/passport photo service. Cost is $14.95 for a set of four.
As Australia Post is the interview point when applying for passports, and in most passport renewals photos can be taken at the time of applying, the postman has a big advantage competing in this niche. Australia Post also promotes its passport photo service for a wide range of ID documents such as Working With Children check cards or Maritime Security identity cards.
‘PMA is very much aware of the importance of passports within our industry,’ said PMA executive director, Peter Rose.
‘We set up the passport website to assist members in giving better service to their customers. Over the past few years we have been part of a small group in regular discussion with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) regarding their plans for the introduction of biometric passports into Australia.
‘PMA very clearly understands the importance of this issue to all our members, as for many, passports represent their highest income earner and for many, can be up to 30 percent of their net income. To lose this would be very bad news.
However, both John Rule and Peter Rose said that the introduction of mandatory biometric passports was inevitable:
‘Following the events of 9/11 governments from around the world saw security and government control of passport image capture to be a priority, said Mr Rose.
‘We do not believe there is a definite timetable for the introduction in to Australia, however unfortunately in time it is bound to happen.’
‘It’s inevitable that Direct Capture will take it course,’ said Mr Rule. ‘But to the best of my knowledge, the Australian government has no short term plans, but has a longer term intention – and global security pressure – to head down this path.
‘But make no mistake, it will happen.’ he concluded.
He added that DFAT is ‘very aware’ of the Daon system, and it was currently being used for specific projects in WA and NSW.
Australia Post was tight-lipped about its possible adoption of the Daon system for passport photos, only saying that:: ‘We currently use various image capture systems on behalf of our clients.
‘We are in the process of reviewing this and can’t comment on our existing suppliers.’