Airport Security 2002

28th Mar 2002

While there are some legitimate concerns about civil liberties with overly intrusive airport security systems, it is only a matter of time before new personal identification technology is as common as a paper boarding pass. You don`t have to look too far over the horizon to see the boarding pass being replaced by something like a wireless smart card transmitting real-time authentication data at the boarding gate.

But, the immediate need is for technology to replace the horribly inefficient current system that relies mostly on poorly trained, underpaid, and often incompetent airport security guards. That technology is biometrics, and although there is still considerable political and airline resistance, some fingerprint biometric systems are being installed at airports.

The next phase of widely used biometrics at airports is likely to be facial recognition systems. The technology exists today for cameras to scan a crowd, matching faces against a database of known terrorists and criminals. One of the advantages of facial recognition systems is that a database of 1.1 billion facial images in identification databases already exists around the world. No re-enrollment is required.

The FaceIt system creates a digital map of a person’s face and rapidly compares it against a database of images. The technology has many promising applications, including fast, positive identification of airline passengers, access control for airport personnel, and crowd screening. Facial recognition is endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as the most suitable biometric tool for air travel.

At the JavaOne Developers Conference in San Francisco this week, a new real-time biometrics system is being demonstrated by Motorola, Visionics and Wirehound. The companies are showing facial recognition capabilities on Java technology enabled Motorola mobile phones.


Just two weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Visionics issued a white paper that it is unrealistic for government officials and the traveling public to expect airlines to be able to address travel security effectively. “The cost of traditional security is in conflict with bottom-line interests,” according to the Visionics white paper. “Therefore, airport security is a matter that needs to be driven by the federal government, and powered by our intelligence community.”

The application shown at JavaOne, developed specifically for a law enforcement agency, uses Visionics` FaceIt Argus as the delivery platform for facial recognition capabilities and Wirehound`s Birddog software on the Motorola i95cl, a Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME) technology-enabled mobile phone with a color display. The FaceIt system automatically finds faces in a field of view and searches them against a mug shot database.

Finding a match, the Birddog component generates a wireless alert to the phones used by mobile law enforcement officials, who are then able to verify the identity of the subject. The phones can store multiple images and are alerted when a new image arrives. Non-matched images are automatically discarded from the system.

“One of the many benefits of Java technology-enabled handsets from Motorola is their ability to be customized to fit the specific needs of a variety of industries,” said Peter Aloumanis, vice president and general manager, U.S. Markets Division, Motorola`s iDEN Subscriber Group. “This application was developed in response to increased demand from the public safety sector to help law enforcement officers identify criminals, while out on patrol.”

Visionics says its FaceIt system delivers a solution that cannot be done manually or through any other mechanism. Identity fraud involved identity theft, duplicate aliases and fictitious identities, and this starts when an individual receives multiple ID documents such as a driver`s license, passport, visa, or national identity card under assumed identities.

This is possible because in most countries the so-called breeder documents such as birth certificates are very easy to fake. In the United States alone, there are about 10,000 different forms of acceptable birth certificates. In practice, it is impossible for a human to search through millions of photos to find a duplicate that could be used for false identification, according to Visionics.

The developers of FaceIt say it eliminates identity fraud at is source by checking for duplicates and aliases, quickly, reliably and automatically. It is the only biometric solution that can be human operator and that returns a result in real-time.
FaceIt recognizes faces at a distance, in a crowd and at a glance. FaceIt will automatically capture faces in the field of view, extract them from their background and compare them against a watch list or database of certain individuals.

These could known terrorists or criminals, or even VIP guests and customers. The system will sound an alert if a match exceeds a certain confidence level.
This automated system can be used at airports, casinos, public buildings, schools, subways, colleges, factories, business facilities, and other public places.

“By teaming with Motorola and Wirehound, we are now providing a compelling solution for on-the-spot criminal recognition,” said Joseph J. Atick, chairman and chief executive officer of Visionics. “Our main achievement is using the scalability of the FaceIt ARGUS as a platform to deliver facial recognition from any point of action to a device as familiar as a mobile phone, without the need for special hardware.”


Last December, ARINC, a leading provider of communications and information systems for the aviation industry, and Visionics announced a strategic marketing alliance. Under the agreement, ARINC will incorporate Visionics FaceIt technology to provide high-speed facial recognition capability in airline and airport security systems.

Next week in New York, Visionics and other leading biometrics companies and investors will participate in the International Biometrics Leadership Forum, a meeting sponsored by the Consulate General of Sweden in New York and the Invest in Sweden Agency. “We have found an excellent forum for serious investors to learn more about exciting opportunities in the biometrics industry,” said Consul General Olle Wastberg, “This seminar follows the successful model that we used recently in offering information regarding current opportunities in the biotech industry.”


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