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Gatwick unveils ‘iris at a distance’ biometric security

Written on October 14, 2011

Liverpool-based biometrics company Human Recognition Systems claims “world first” in biometric deployment at Gatwick

Gatwick Airport unveiled its new biometric security technology today, at the Biometrics 2011 conference in central London.

The system, which was launched at the airport last week, employs ‘iris at a distance’ technology to speed up security checks. Supplied by Liverpool-based Human Recognition Systems (HRS), the new security checks work alongside a facial tracking system at Gatwick’s South Terminal. The new technology has been installed as part of a £45 million upgrade under Gatwick’s new owners, Global Investment Partners.

Gatwick’s technology leader, Perry Hailey, told the Biometrics 2011 conference that Gatwick is looking to become London’s airport of choice. “Anyone who’s travelled from Gatwick knows that security was not a great experience,” Hailey said, adding that the large investment from the new owners was allowing the airport to fix this.

The security check system, called MFlow Track, consists of 19 automated gates that process 5,000 passengers per hour. The passenger’s iris is scanned, along with the boarding card, on the entrance and exit to the departure lounge, ensuring that the same person enters and leaves. Its sister system, MFlow Journey, uses face recognition to provide Gatwick with business intelligence, tracking passengers through the airport and allowing Gatwick to measure the exact length of time passengers spend in each area of the terminal.

Hailey said that the data that is collected by the MFlow systems is non-persistent. “The data on the iris is kept for 24 hours for early check-ins. We had the information commissioner come in about a month ago and we went through all the principles [of data protection],” he said.

Since Gatwick is no longer owned by BAA, it is now in direct competition with Heathrow for passengers. Mark Crego, a senior executive at Accenture who leads border and identity management, said that because of this competition the new technologies will be focused on improving customer experience, not just saving money. “Increased market share concerning customers will create the right focus on them,” Crego said.

Jim Slevin, HRS’s transport manager, said: “We see this going towards ticketless travel. Biometric can replace the proxy of a ticket.”


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