BAA to RFID-tag taxis to boost Terminal 5 security

BAA plans to increase security at the new Heathrow Terminal 5 by using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to check the identity of taxis and taxi drivers entering the terminal to pick up passengers.

BAA plans to increase security at the new Heathrow Terminal 5 by using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to check the identity of taxis and taxi drivers entering the terminal to pick up passengers.

The UK airports operator said that security at the terminal was paramount, and ensuring that only licensed taxis were allowed to pick up fares would make an important contribution.

The importance of secure access control has been highlighted by last week's attack on Glasgow airport.

"RFID access and identification systems can help ensure only authorised personnel enter controlled areas. They can also help in emergencies, where the system can identify the location of personnel and track staff working in sensitive areas," said Jeff Woods, global lead analyst on RFID at analyst firm Gartner.

Under the scheme, only licensed taxis carrying authorised drivers will be allowed to pick up passengers from the buffer zone inside the terminal. Cab drivers will have to register to work at the airport via the Heathrow Airport Licensed Taxis organisation.

The system also aims to reduce passenger waiting times by ensuring the right number of taxis are made available to passengers who request rides.

The software application, provided by Steria, counts the number of taxis and displays waiting times for the next fare on electronic boards for drivers, which enables them to calculate when they need to advance from being parked to the pick-up point, depending on the influx of customers. This ensures that the right number of taxis are allocated to the appropriate terminal at the right time.

BAA said one of the big hurdles was to secure buy-in from taxi drivers. But after consulting with the Heathrow Taxi Trade Partnership, it has shown that the system would lead to greater transparency and more registered taxis being used.

The system could also be extended to other modes of commercial transport, including minibuses and coaches, although BAA has no plans to extend this to private vehicles dropping passengers off at the terminal.

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