Heathrow Airport's test programme of biometric fingerprint readers to authenticate passengers could pave the way for wider biometric border controls in UK airports.
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Travellers to Dubai and Hong Kong are being given the option of fast-tracking through security checks if they have their fingerprints, faces and eyes biometrically scanned.
"Biometric ID systems are fundamental to securing our borders in a more mobile age. They are crucial for counting everyone in and out of the country," said immigration minister Liam Byrne.
The system, called Misense, scans each passenger's passport and right index finger to create an electronic key that will allow them to board the aircraft more quickly than other passengers. An extended version, Misenseplus, scans 10 fingerprints, an image of the passenger's face and a detailed image of both their eyes.
The trials will be expanded in 2007 to test a system dubbed Advance Passenger Information, which will provide border control agencies with intelligence on passengers before they board a plane.
The system is used in countries including Australia, Bahrain, Kuwait and New Zealand to issue airlines with the "authority to carry" each passenger before they check in.
The trial will research the technical performance of the system and its acceptability to passengers.
"Improving the passenger experience is a key objective of [UK airports authority] BAA. The sort of technologies and systems that the Misense trials are developing will not only reduce passenger queuing but further strengthen aviation security," said a BAA spokesman.
Heathrow's biometric technology was developed by firms including Accenture, IER, Ratheon, nCipher and Sagem.