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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Multi-Biometric Authentication For Improving Airport Passenger Flow

22 September, 2010
With biometrics having been tinkered with in many airports of the world for a number of years, Spain has now gone for a major installation at its two largest airports with a multi-biometric solution
Using fingerprint and face biometrics technology from Neurotechnology, Spain has installed self-service passenger kiosks at airports in Madrid and Barcelona for use by holders of Spanish citizen ID cards or the European Community electronic passport. The system is expected to relieve pressure on the volume of passenger throughput.

Against the background of this installation, I asked Algimantas Malickas, the CEO of Neurotechnology, about the general trends in the growth of biometrics as an identity verification technology in airports and border control.

I started by asking about the use of dual biometrics. A single biometric such as face recognition plus possession of the passport is already two-factor authentication with high levels of security. Why is a third factor such as a fingerprint necessary?

"Every biometrics modality has its own advantages and disadvantages", he told me. "For example, face recognition is quite convenient, but some false rejection cases may occur for various reasons such as sunglasses, a heavy beard, heavy cosmetics, etc. Fingerprint biometrics is very reliable, but also has some limitations".

"For example, fingerprints may be more difficult to read in people who do heavy labour with their hands, or, in some cases with elderly people's hands. Using a few biometrical modalities allows us to eliminate such hard-to-use cases, because even if the recognition in one modality is weaker, another modality can compensate for it".

Doesn't the complexity of having two biometric recognition factors impact on reliability?

"On the contrary, using two biometrical factors increases reliability very much", he continued. "In our internal Neurotechnology testing, face and fingerprint multi-biometrics decrease the false rejection rate by orders of magnitude in comparison with the case when only fingerprints are used".

Many countries outside Europe have biometric passports such as the USA and many CIS countries. Is there any plan to extend the system to screen non-European citizens in the same way where the traveller's credentials will include passport, schengen visa and biometric factors?

"More and more countries are issuing passports with biometrical data included", Algimantas explained. "So the potential application of such documents is also increasing. One of the most basic of such applications is border control. In such systems, reliability is very important and the use of a few biometrical modalities is a way to achieve it".

Could facial recognition systems be used as a screening system for all travellers passing through passport control to verify identity and check against watch-list databases to prevent crime and terrorism?

"Yes, they can", he concluded. "Such a check requires one-to-many identification, where even greater reliability is required with respect to the one-to-one verification. Therefore, multi-biometrics may be especially useful for such applications".

Read more on the Spanish Airport Story
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