Transportation mulls smart cards for security

Transportation mulls smart cards for security

The Transportation Security Administration is accepting proposals for a smart-card system to authenticate transportation workers such as pilots and flight attendants, an expert said today at FOSE 2002 in Washington.

The cards could 'get a much better handle on the workers, not only at airports but for all modes of transportation,' said Richard Wright, prime technology consultant to the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass.

The smart cards would work in conjunction with biometric identifiers such as fingerprints, iris scans or encoded photographs, Wright said. Each worker would also have a personal identification number for extra security, he said.

But the system design 'has to be one that does not impede the flow of air traffic,' Wright said.

If TSA decides to go ahead, he said, transportation workers would be required to carry the smart cards. Travelers could choose to participate voluntarily. There is a possibility that such a system might also be used to identify people who rent cars and trucks at airports, Wright said.

TSA would face many challenges in implementing such a system, he said'for example, integration with Justice and State Department systems and real-time updating. People would want to feel confident of the system's security, and it must also be 'somewhat crashproof,' he said. If it stopped working, TSA would need contingency plans for manual searches or airport closings.

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