Airport security systems have witnessed a tectonic shift towards biometric access control systems ever since the events of September 11 which laid threadbare the limitations of the manual security systems. Everybody agrees that airport needed to revamp their archaic security systems; however, questions were raised whether the new system of screening would take things too far?
Pre-Screening at the time of booking
The new system being mooted would require the passengers to submit personal details at the time of flight booking. The information provided by the customers will be used to assign a risk rating to each passenger. The passenger assigned a higher risk rating would be directed to provide more information. According to experts, this new development should not be seen as an inconvenience but as advancement in the right direction.
The new biometric security system will use biometric data to confirm the identity of passengers. Fingerprint access control with its high degree of reliability and ease of use is the most popular airport security system available. However, other biometric security systems like retinal scans and facial patterns are also steadily gaining ground.
Experts say that this would increase waiting time for the passengers because baggage would still need to be inspected. Taking this into consideration, airports suggest that passengers should arrive at least 2 to three hours early. However, naysayers say that this would discourage people from flying which could very well sound the death knell for the struggling aviation business. However, with the homeland security involved its implementation is almost certain.
Heathrow Airport-A case study
Earlier, air travelers in the UK gave their assent to a biometric security system after a four month trial period at the Heathrow Airport. The trial used fingerprint and iris scans to screen more than 3000 passengers travelling to and from Dubai and Hong Kong. The trial was aimed to test the feasibility of the system which would check the passenger’s detail against various intelligence databases and watch lists before allowing them to embark on the flight.
The system required the passenger to scan their passport and right index finger at the self service kiosk before boarding the flight. Access is granted only after the passenger’s biometric details have been validated at the boarding gate.
The enrolment system collected 10 fingerprints, two iris images and a facial scan which digitalized and then stored in Radio Frequency Identification Card (RFID). This card was compatible with fingerprint readers installed at the immigration barriers at Dubai, Heathrow and Hong Kong airports.
The passenger feed back was generally found to be favorable; with 81 percent rating the system good and 87 saying that the enrolment process was easy. Contrary to expectations most of those enrolled into the program said that the system allowed faster journey times. On an average it took seven minutes to enroll a traveler into the biometric system. The time taken by a passenger to clear the self-service border clearance gate was 17 seconds on an average. The validation was quick and efficient and more than 96 percent of the cases were processed within 30 seconds.
A spokesperson at the airport said that the advancements in the world of technology means that the information can now be captured quickly, processed unobtrusively, with a high degree of acceptance. Biometric technology has many uses like maintaining biometric attendance, improving administration in prison departments; however, biometric security is one field where its effect is expected to be the most.