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Biometric face recognition technology applications in airport security

Cognitec Systems : 06 November, 2009  (Special Report)
Juergen Pampus of Cognitec Systems explains how face recognition technology has advanced to a position of wide-spread deployment across applications such as border control, physical access control and mobile identity checking to bring mainstream biometrics to the world's airports
Biometric face recognition technology applications in airport security
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Face recognition systems have been available in the market for about 15 years. Being a very complex technology, initial performance results were poor and the usefulness for security applications was limited. However, massive investments into research and development as well as numerous field trials have resulted in a very reliable technology over the last few years. For example, tests conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the USA have shown that recognition accuracy of the leading algorithms have increased by a factor of 20 between 2002 and 2006.

Airport operators have looked into face recognition since years as well. There are a number of possible applications for face recognition at airports that help to increase security and at the same time, improve passenger guidance and convenience. An advantage of face recognition is that it is a non-intrusive technology, very easy to use and fast so that, for example, it does not slow down the flow of people through an access point.

Video Surveillance:

There is a fast growing demand from government, law enforcement, retail and industry customers for solutions to identify persons from live video cameras or video footage. Cognitec has addressed this demand by offering products that are optimized for the analysis of video streams, in order to detect, locate, track and identify faces by real-time comparison to watch list databases.

Cognitec's FaceVACS-Alert is a new generation of computer-assisted video surveillance. FaceVACS-Alert automatically scans incoming video streams, detects and tracks multiple faces and checks for possible 'watch list' matches. If a match is found, operators are notified - in real time - allowing them to focus on the identified person instead of simultaneously observing multiple video screens. The latest release of FaceVACS-Alert combines Cognitec's leading face recognition technology with state-of-the art camera and computer equipment.

Border control:

The worldwide deployment of electronic travel documents like ePassports are revolutionizing Border Control Applications. Not only are Border Control Officers now supported by tools increasing the security of the immigration processes, but also full-service immigration using ePassport and face recognition is now possible. Face recognition in combination with ePassports ensures secure checking of travel documents and biometric verification of the identity of the passport holder. Automatic and semi-automatic identity verification allows for new generation of secure, streamlined and cost efficient immigration processes.

This so-called SmartGate system at Sydney Airport which was first introduced in 2002 has been the model of automated border control systems that now begin to be introduced all over the world.

Cognitec offers essential components that allow fully customized integration into existing and future border control systems. By using the FaceVACS-CaptureUnit product, passengers' biometric traits will be captured automatically and passenger-friendly. The captured images are of best quality and can be passed on to a facial verification unit (as provided by Cognitec's FaceVACS-SDK) to be verified against the digital image read from the ePassport of the passenger. Also, the captured image can be passed on to a background system (as provided by Cognitec's FaceVACS-Alert) and checked against a watch list of undesired immigrants in real-time.

Prerequisite for reliable border control are reliable travel documents. To prevent ID fraud, document issuing authorities make sure that applicants cannot gain ID documents that enable a "second identity". Checking applicants' photos by facial appearance helps to minimize such fraudulent attacks. Cognitec's FaceVACS-DBScan product is an answer to the challenge of finding duplicate faces (under different names) in large photo databases, and is already being used by passport, visa, and driver's license authorities around the world.

The quality of passport photos (as specified by ICAO recommendations and the ISO 19794-5 standard) to be stored in ePassports is another prerequisite: automatic quality assessment tools based on face recognition technology like Cognitec's FaceVACS-Acquisition have been introduced to assure this.

Mobile identity check:

Identifying suspects on the streets by mobile devices has become a requirement by police, intelligence, and military forces. Cognitec's face recognition technology has been made available on handheld devices so that a photo of a suspect can be captured and compared to image databases on the device as well as on central systems connected through mobile networks. Cognitec's FaceVACS-SDK / Mobile covers the biometric functions (use cases) of Face Acquisition, Enrollment, Verification, and Identification.

Physical access control:

Controlling access to high-security areas is another high-priority issue for airport operators. Biometric systems can be combined with existing ID card systems in order to make sure that only authorized persons can enter those areas. Face recognition offers the advantage of being very easy to use and convenient as well as fast so that queuing at entry points can be avoided.

FaceVACS-Sentry is a self-contained device that includes the required hardware and software to support this innovative approach to physical access control.

Information on Cognitec:

Headquartered in Dresden, Germany and offices in Miami, FL; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Hong Kong, China, Cognitec Systems develops markets and deploys the well- established and market leading FaceVACS® face recognition software to global customers and government agencies. Cognitec's software experts have been developing face recognition technology since 1995. In various independent evaluation tests including the Face Recognition Vendor Tests in 2002 and 2006, FaceVACS® has proven to be the leading technology available on the market. Cognitec's face recognition technology can help enhance security in areas where it is important to verify the identity of persons based on facial images.

Examples of such applications include border control, law enforcement investigations, passport or drivers' license issuance, video surveillance and physical access control.

Dr Juergen Pampus is the Vice-President of Sales & Marketing at Cognitec Systems.
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