|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Iris scans take off at airports
(IDG) -- In one of the first public applications of eye-scanning technology, two airports this week will begin scanning passengers' irises as part of an effort to streamline boarding and security processes. Using video cameras to scan the iris - the colored ring that surrounds the pupil in the human eye - EyeTicket Corp. in McLean, Va., will begin registering passengers at Charlotte/ Douglas International Airport in North Carolina and Flughafen Frankfurt Airport in Germany today. EyeTicket has been scanning Charlotte/Douglas airport employees and U.S. Airways Group Inc. flight staffs since May.
The airport rollouts are among the first major business applications involving iris-scan technology. Until now, Bank United Corp. in Houston had been engaged in the most notable business application of iris scans, observers said.
In May last year, the bank converted three supermarket automated teller machines, at a cost of $5,000 each, to use the technology to identify customers before they conducted transactions. Bank United remains the lone player in its industry to go live with the technology, said Judy Wong, an analyst at Newton, Mass.-based Meridien Research Inc.
The technology got its start in law enforcement. In 1996, Lancaster County Prison in Pennsylvania became the first correctional facility to use iris scanning. Warden Vincent A. Guarini said the facility sometimes needs to release prisoners on short notice and can't wait for fingerprint tests.
Charlotte/Douglas aviation director Jerry Orr said his facility agreed to test the iris scans, which translate the 266 independent characteristics of the iris into a 512-byte digital code, for security purposes. Orr said reports from airport workers and flight crews have been positive. A 30 frame/ sec., black-and-white video camera is used to take a picture of the eye from 6 to 36 inches away. EyeTicket Chairman and CEO Stewart Mann said iris scans aren't invasive like retina scans, which use a laser to probe the eye. He also said retinas change during a person's life, whereas irises don't.
Once U.S. Airways passengers enroll, their codes will be stored for future use. Mann said he hopes airline passengers will be able to step in front of a terminal kiosk, get scanned in one second and then be issued a boarding pass - a process he expects to bring online within a year.
Supporters of the scans say the technology provides a way to identify people through a unique feature, since no two irises are the same. Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, which lobbies airlines and others on issues that affect business travelers, sees iris scans as a convenience, not an intrusion.
"If you don't feel violated in an airport today by all the questions and the searches, this isn't going to make you feel more violated," he said.
He said he thinks passengers will be willing to test the programs for additional frequent-flier miles or other perks.
Orr said the iris scans have other advantages. "Obviously, your eye's pretty secure," he said. "You always have it with you. You don't have to worry if you left it somewhere or if someone else is using it when they shouldn't."
Wong said she believes that biometric technologies will be adopted slowly. "It's a lot of work to convert all those machines," she said.
New airport scanners have super sight
RELATED IDG.net STORIES:
Biometrics meet wireless internet
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.