U.K. airport chooses iris recognition

Manchester Airport in the United Kingdom is launching that nation's first iris recognition access-control system for airport employees.

The iris system is replacing identification checks made by guards at checkpoints to limit access to secure areas, according to media reports in the U.K. Instead, the nearly 25,000 airport employees will use iris scanners to gain entry through gates into restricted zones.

The system is being installed by the U.K.'s Department for Transport, Manchester Airport and biometric identity-management consultancy Human Recognition Systems.

The immigration control section at Manchester Airport has used iris scanning since 2006. Prescreened passengers receive expedited passage through immigration controls if they register their iris biometrics in advance, and then screen their irises at the airports.

In the United States, Kip Hawley, assistant secretary for the Transportation Security Administration, testified in 2007 about deploying a multi-layered approach to screening and security checks for airport employees. The agency has been testing various biometric access control systems for airport employees, including iris systems, since 2003.

To improve aviation security, the Airports Council International-North America last year recommended:
  • Expanded use of fingerprint, iris and other biometric screening for airport employees' access to restricted zones;
  • Increased use of behavioral recognition techniques to identify hostile behavior;
  • More training for airport employees;
  • Targeted physical inspections;
  • Special certification of airport employees; and
  • Wider deployment of cameras and body imaging technologies at airports.

Installing employee access-control systems typically offers opportunities for information technology and biometric contractors and for systems integrators that must link those access systems to existing computer networks and communications channels.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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