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Airport execs meet to discuss post-9/11 security

By Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: In the future, some security systems you may see, others you may not. But the purpose of one kind of device is to see YOU. A biometric product you may have heard about scans faces in the crowd. At DFW, that crowd numbers about 50 million a year.

Bill Michael, Director, Security and Law Enforcement Markets, Visionics Corporatation: We're looking to identify high-risk people at the airport. So this system automatically provides that functionality to continually assess faces to see if there's a high confidence match.

Zeeble: Bill Michael's a director and salesperson for high-technology security systems manufacturer Visionics Corporation. Its product is being tested at several airports, including DFW. Each 10-thousand dollar device loads faces of known or suspected criminals into its data bank and digitally compares them to faces captured by the camera. At least 16 different parts of the facial bone structure that cannot be changed without surgery are compared for a potential match.

Michael: It's not subject to things that would fool a human such as superficial changes to the face, skin color, facial hair, eyeglasses, hair color. As humans, we don't have a strong capability of remembering faces unfamiliar to us. So the technology fills those challenges, fills those gaps?

Zeeble: Whether this system, or a competitor's, gets installed in airports is up to the fledgling Transportation Security Administration, which was created after Sept. 11th. Officials haven't decided on this kind of device yet. And it's unclear who will pay for security upgrades. But safety experts say one system likely to be installed double checks already-cleared airport workers. James Thornton is a sale manager with Identics.

James Thornton, Account Manager, Identics: We use biometric finger technology to make sure Joe is who they say they are.

Zeeble: Thornton's system betters the current Mag card or PIN number by carrying the employee's digital fingerprint on a card. Upon entering a secured area, the worker not only inserts that card and puts in a number, but then holds any finger up to a scanner for a match. Sam Bruneti, who has a competing product from security company ADT, says even if Thornton's device works flawlessly, there could still be a problem.

Sam Bruneti, Operations Manager, Federal Systems Division, Aviation Group: As you walk through the door, Fred comes up, says hey, hold the door and we let them through. Unbeknownst to us, he was fired this morning. So now he's coming in to do damage. He was allowed to piggyback or tailgate with us through that door.

Zeeble: ADT's device uses biometrics with a dual over-head digital camera to determine the number of people on the other side of a secured door, and whether that number's been cleared to enter. The device was adapted from high-speed assembly lines to identify defective goods and rapidly remove them. Bruneti says if something goes wrong?

Bruneti: The system will alarm. The system will document that this took place.

Zeeble: Bruneti says each system costs between 6- and 8-thousand dollars. Since September 11th, many such high security doors in the nation's airports have remained closed until there's something more secure. ADT is testing its device in Orlando and hopes to test it at some West Coast airport soon. For KERA 90.1, I'm Bill Zeeble.


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