Biometrics Plays Big Role with Airport Security

February 4, 2002
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With the ever-increasing concern for airport safety since Septrember 11, the airlines have taken a major economic hit. How can airports restore the confidence of the weary traveler?

Biometrics-hand geometry technology- is one type of electronic security that can be used at our nation's airports to help rebuild the foundation of the public's confidence in airline security. Perhaps we can learn from the experience of those already using biometric technology. Examples of such use is at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

More than 2 million people travel to Israel each year, and many of them go through Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, one of the world's busiest air terminals. In addition, Israeli citizens use the airport on an increasing basis each year. As a result, airport officials turned to Recognition Systems, Inc. (RSI), Campbell, Calif., HandReaders and Electronic Data Systems Corporation (EDS), Dallas, Tex., to help maintain security, increase travelers' walking speed and expedite passengers through passport control.

EDS developed an automated inspection system using its Express EntrySM technology. The system includes 21 automatic inspection kiosks throughout the airport. The kiosks are equipped with RSI's HandKey HandReaders, which measure the size and shape of a person's hand. The collected data is compared with a template stored in the Express EntrySM System. If it matches, the person's identity is confirmed. The template verification process takes less than one second.

Israeli citizens and frequent international travelers at Ben Gurion now go through the airport?s automatic inspection kiosks. During enrollment, the system captures biographic information and biometric hand-geometry data.

Then during arrival or departure, travelers use a credit card for initial identification, and the system verifies their identity with the HandReader. The system then prints a receipt to allow travelers to proceed.

Israel Ben Haim, managing director of Ben Gurion International Airport, is extremely pleased with the system. "Tighter security expedites air travel, and more efficient operations help make our airport one of the world's best," he said.

Most of the people using the automatic inspection kiosks are known frequent flyers who are considered low risk. As a result, airport and border security authorities can focus on unknown travelers, which improves security and reduces waiting times. For example, the automated inspection process takes 20 seconds; passport control lines can take up to an hour.

Ben Gurion's biometric identification system has reduced or in some cases eliminated waiting times for travelers. Nearly 80,000 Israeli citizens have enrolled in the system. In 2000, an airport expansion increased the number of kiosks, and the system completed more than 1 million inspections by the end of the year. The project initially targeted only frequent travelers, but it has been expanded to include all Israeli citizens. It is now processing about 50,000 passengers per month.

The automatic inspection system has even garnered awards. In June 2001, the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) presented Ben Gurion International Airport Authority with a Golden Link Award for excellence and innovation in applying technology in government operations.

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