New facial scanners at Heathrow to check the identity of millions

This Is London
20.07.2011
By Laura Roberts

Millions of Heathrow passengers will have their faces scanned from September to cut queues and identify potential terrorists.

Every traveller from terminals one and five will undergo the infra-red “facial recognition” checks before they board their planes.

The Aurora Imaging Recognition system is the most advanced to be used in a UK airport. It has been approved for use at Heathrow following an 18-month trial by BAA and the UK Border Agency.

These found that it took only five seconds to confirm the identity of the average passenger.

Facial recognition software works by scanning the dimensions of the subject’s face and comparing these to a pre-recorded database. When a match is registered the subject’s identity is confirmed.

The security technology at Heathrow will be provided by biometric software specialists Aurora in partnership with security firm Atkins.

The system can identify people from a distance of 40cm to a metre and can be adjusted to cope with different heights, including wheelchair users and children.

Hugh Carr-Archer, chief executive of Aurora, said the AIR system was superior to facial recognition technology already being used at airports such as Manchester.

He said: “Previous facial recognition technology has always been highly susceptible to changes in light.

“We use near infra-red light which bathes the face in constant lighting. It’s the first time this system has been used by an airport for passenger processing.”

It is understood that 82 units will be installed in September after the busy summer period along with new software and cameras.

A BAA spokesman said: “In line with UKBA requirements we are introducing technology that will enable us to more accurately reconcile images of passengers flying domestically.

Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “The compilation of a digital database of images of all travellers is an invasion of privacy.”

Full article


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