License dispute creates possible hurdle for TSA

A licensing disagreement has thrown a kink into the Transportation Security Administration's Registered Traveler program.

TSA is using patented iris recognition software from Iridian Technologies Inc. of Moorestown, N.J., in a security screening pilot for frequent flyers at five airports across the United States. Iridian's software, however, became involved in the company's licensing dispute with LG Electronics Inc. of Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Darrin Kayser, a TSA spokesman, said the agency does not expect the dispute to foil its pilot, which has been extended indefinitely. 'We have a contract with EDS Corp. to provide the product, and they are providing it,' he said.

It's unclear how the dispute might affect a full deployment of the systems for screening of frequent flyers.

Iris recognition technology is accurate because no two irises are alike. A phenomenon called chaotic morphogenesis causes random formation of patterns in the eye soon after conception.
Although there's no talk of changing biometric methods for the TSA program, alternatives comparable to iris recognition do exist.

Finger scanning

A newer technique called blood vessel authentication, pioneered by iAccess Systems Inc. of Long Beach, Calif., beams near-infrared light through a finger and photographs the vessel patterns. Individuals have unique blood vessel patterns, which makes this form of authentication as accurate as iris recognition.

Like Iridian's technology, blood vessel authentication works regardless of ambient light. It can process several passengers within seconds, and it will recognize only a living finger'severed ones or replicas won't work. Although it is newer and less tested than iris recognition, it has an ease-of-use advantage. Scanning a person's finger is less intrusive than scanning an eye.

Another possible alternative to iris recognition is hand geometry. The HandKey device from Recognition Systems Inc. of Campbell, Calif., can analyze more than 31,000 points and take more than 90 measurements of a hand in about a second. It measures everything from width and length of fingers to hand surface area and is well-suited for a high-traffic environment.

Hand geometry is another robust form of biometrics in terms of maintenance. It reportedly is in use at 95 percent of U.S. nuclear power plants. San Francisco International Airport's 18,000 employees have made more than 100 million successful verifications with the HandKey, according to the company.

A combination of biometric technologies is even more secure.

With Veraport facial recognition software from Acsys Biometrics Corp. of Ontario, Canada, in combination with the Bio-Pen from DynaSig Corp. of Scottsdale, Ariz., travelers can simply sign their names and look in a certain direction for a second.

Facial recognition can be effective for authenticating a person if the ambient lighting is controlled and the newest video cameras are used.

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