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Iris scans of little value without standards

Nick Huber

Government plans to install iris scanning machines in UK airports will be of limited use unless more progress is made towards international standards in biometric technology, experts said this week.

The Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate plans to install an iris-based system at 10 UK sites following a lengthy trial. The system is due to be in operation by next summer and suppliers have been invited to submit ideas for the project.

Analysts said the introduction of iris-scanning devices was a logical move but added that biometric technology was still relatively immature and hindered by a lack of standards.

"There are few biometric and security standards," said Tony Lock, chief analyst at Bloor Research. "To be really effective it has to be an international movement."

There are moves, however, to develop a biometric standard for the airline industry. In March Computer Weekly revealed plans for a standard to fast-track frequent flyers through airport check-in procedures and security controls that will be trialled in Europe later this year.

The secure travel initiative, S-Travel, aims to reduce check-in times and cut costs for airlines. It is backed by an industry consortium of airlines, airports and technology suppliers as part of an effort to tighten airport security in the face of increasing risks of terrorist activity. Radio frequency identification luggage tags are also being considered.


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