Eye-scanner debuts at Manchester

Manchester Airport has once again been chosen to trial a new security system, an innovative iris-scanning machine. The device, which is the second system to be trialled at the Ringway hub this year, after the controversial full-body scanner, will be installed at check-in points around the airport.

Iris recognition, developed at Cambridge University by John Daugman, is widely cited as a virtually foolproof method of identifying a person, chiefly because irises are unique to one individual, and the eyes are well protected from damage. Fingerprints, on the other hand, can be altered by manual labour, painted over, or even sanded off with a pumice stone.

Human Recognition Systems, a firm that specialises in biometric technology, and the creator of the iris-scanner, claims that the technology behind the device is very accurate and results so far have been “very positive.” The machine can even scan a person’s eyes when they are moving around the airport.

The scanner seems to be aimed at preventing one crime in particular – crooks who swap (or steal) boarding cards from other travellers, allowing the criminal to assume the identity of their accomplice or victim.

Card-swapping gained some recognition recently, after two men, aged 20 and 55, traded boarding passes at Hong Kong Airport, allowing the younger man to travel to the US disguised as an elderly Caucasian man, complete with silicone rubber mask. However, with iris scanning in place, a person’s name will be permanently associated with a picture of their iris, preventing identity theft.

Mike Fazackerley, product director at Manchester Airport, said of the iris scanner, “Although the device is in its very early stages of development, using this technology for transfer passengers could make Manchester more attractive to airlines in the future.”

Iris scanning is currently voluntary, and all other security steps, including the full-body scanner, remain operational.

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