UK Airports Scrap Iris Scanners In Favour Of E-Passports

Six years after installing iris recognition scanners at several airports throughout the UK, the region’s border agency will scrap the technology in favour of electronic passports.

Iris Recognition Immigration System (IRIS) terminals have already closed at the airports in Birmingham and Manchester, and the remaining terminals at Heathrow and Gatwick will be shut down after the 2012 Olympics in London this summer.

IRIS terminals were introduced in 2006 at the UK’s busiest airports with the intention of speeding up immigration control and helping frequent travelers avoid long lines. The technology scans a unique pattern of the coloured part of the eye to identify travelers as they pass through the border. The scanners then compare the image of the eye to a pre-registered image on a government database to verify the users identity.

According to an article published by TechWeek Europe, the scanners have been the target of much criticism over the past six years with users complaining the process actually took longer instead of saving time.

“Even though each human has a unique iris pattern, the eye goes through physiological changes and needs to be re-scanned every couple of years for the system to work,” the article said. “As of April 2011, the government has spent more than £9 million on the system. Conservative peer Lord Henley has called it a ‘valuable test bed for the next generation of automation.’”

Airports are now looking to install facial recognition gates in place of IRIS terminals. This technology has already been instituted at London’s Stansted Airport, and will be introduced at 15 other airport terminals throughout the UK in the coming year.

“ePassport gates will use facial recognition technology to compare faces of UK and EEA passengers to images held in their biometric passports in addition to biographical and security checks,” wrote TechWeek.

TechWeek Europe: “UK Border Agency Scraps £9m Airport Iris Scanners”


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