TSA set to test biometric systems at 20 airports

Different locations require different biometrics. 'One size does not fit all. That's the case at access control points at airports.'

'Rick Lazarick, TSA

Henrik G. DeGyor

Over the next several months, the Transportation Security Administration will test biometric devices at 20 U.S. airports. The agency plans to quickly award contracts for the pilot of its Airport Access Control Pilot Program.

TSA last month issued a request for information about biometric devices. The agency is evaluating submissions from the 100 vendors that responded, said Rick Lazarick, program manager for TSA's Airport Access Control Pilot Program.

'We will evaluate the available technologies and determine which component devices are ready for testing, meet the requirements for new and emerging solutions, address the access control issues within the scope of the program and are suitable for the site under consideration at the time of site selection,' Lazarick said.

The agency this month will release a solicitation for systems integrators to vendors holding contracts on the National Institutes of Health's Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners 2 Innovations program.

TSA wants components, devices or systems that can be deployed in limited quantities within three months and will work for full-scale deployment in nine months.

'The systems integrator will coordinate with vendors of selected equipment to install and test the equipment to determine the effectiveness of the devices with respect to the type of secured access control and airport category and environment,' the RFI said.

In June, TSA sent out a letter inviting airports to participate in the pilot, Lazarick said recently at a conference in Washington. Seventy-five have applied to participate.

Officials conducting the pilot will focus on verifying the identities of airport and airline employees at specific points for access control. The pilot will include devices that recognize faces, fingerprints, hand geometry, irises and voices, Lazarick said.

TSA will test devices at various airport areas such as turnstiles, vehicle gates and terminal doors to baggage areas.

'One size does not fit all,' Lazarick said. 'That's the case at access control points at airports.' He said TSA plans to finish the planning and contracting stage by the end of the year.

TSA will decide where to place devices based on the advice of the systems integrator and Mitretek Systems Inc. of Falls Church, Va., a nonprofit engineering company.

Logan could be among first

The Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 authorized $23 million for security projects, including biometric tests at airports.

Logan International Airport in Boston has applied to become one of the 20 airports to pilot biometrics.

The Massachusetts Port Authority earlier this year tested facial-recognition devices from Viisage Technology Inc. of Littleton, Mass., for four months at two Logan security checkpoints. Logan is testing iris scan technology from Identix Inc. of Minnetonka, Minn.

Logan enrolled about 60 employees in the facial-recognition system but found that the devices worked too slowly, said Tom Kinton, director of aviation at Massport, which oversees Logan and two other airports in the state.

'By the time a passenger walks through, he may have disappeared into the concourse,' Kinton said. 'The process wasn't fast enough.'

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