Advanced Biometric Security Arrives at Border Checkpoints


NEW YORK — Countries in Europe and the Pacific Rim have begun implementing advanced biometric technology such as facial and iris scanning at borders and airports, a trend one expert says will continue its growth spurt in 2010.

More than 70 countries are now issuing e-passports that include a 64k embedded chip with the user’s personal data. These IDs are scanned at entry points to help immigration officials combat look-alike fraud and other scams. Canada is the only large country not using e-passports, but will introduce them in 2011.

“That is a growth industry that will grow with these passports being out there,” Terry Hartmann, vice president of identity solutions with Unysis, tells SSI. “The pressure is on the do this type of verification at the border.”

Currently, the United Arab Emirates is the only country using iris-scanning technology at its border checkpoints. The country collects iris data on people who have been deported to keep them from re-entering the country.

Six other countries — Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Finland and Singapore — are using facial or fingerprint verification to process passengers.

Biometric technology can be used to ease the flow of passengers at airports, by setting up self-check kiosks with readers and cameras that scan a person’s face, retina, iris or fingerprint. In Australia, the kiosks are set up near entry gates to read facial scans and electronically open doors for travelers.

The kiosks include a high-resolution camera that uses ambient (rather than flash) lighting to capture a high-quality image. Currently, separate cameras are usually used for iris and facial recognition, but LG Iris of Cranbury, N.J., and Puerto Rico-headquartered Global Rainmakers Inc. have introduced cameras that do both.

LG’s iCAM4000, which includes an embedded smart card, provides simultaneous two-eye capture, built-in illumination and audio cues for users. It can be configured with external card readers.

As biometric technology evolves and governments want additional personal data to issue passports, passengers may be providing a digital photo, iris scan, fingerprints or retinal image that’s stored on the e-passport chip, Hartmann says.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has developed standards, suggesting this data be added to the chip-enabled passports. Governments willing to fund these initiatives after 9/11 are driving the trend.

“Equipment had to be invented to meet the standards,” Hartmann says. “Industry saw that government was willing to invest in these technologies, so they could commit R&D dollars to develop these technologies in a very short space of time.”

For insight on selling secure identification and personal verification technologies, check out “Pinpointing Prospects in Biometrics” in SSI’s January issue or click here.

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