London City Airport has become the first in Europe to install a biometric security system, using fingerprint scanners to control access to all areas of the airport.
It is currently only scanning employees, but the scheme will be extended to include all passengers travelling to the US on a visa waiver form filled out on the plane by the end of October 2004.
The system, designed by Daon, works by scanning a fingerprint and using an extraction algorithm to locate the unique pattern of connections to identify the user.
Actual fingerprints are not stored, in an effort to preserve privacy. The system works in conjunction with traditional photo identification.
Alan Medlock, operations director at London City Airport, said: "Once we'd successfully rolled it out at headquarters we did the same for the airport. So far the only false rejects we've had have been to do with our training programme; we've fixed it so that if you haven't completed the proper training for an area then you can't get in."
Daon claims a false acceptance rate (a non-authorised person being mistakenly accepted) of one in 100,000 and a false reject rate (locking out legitimate users) of 1.5 per cent.
"This is about building the biggest biometric system in the world," said Oliver Tattan, chief executive at Daon.
"Biometrics will be essential for travel to the US and elsewhere, and a solid system is key. It needs to be failsafe and foolproof."
The US Department of Homeland Security has stated that it wishes to install the US Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology system by November 2004.
This will require all visitors to undergo at least two forms of biometric identification before entering the country.
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