Feeds

Iris scans at UK airports, says Home Office

Only trusted travellers need apply

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

The Home Office is to install iris scanning technology in major UK airports. It says this will speed up immigration times for those who register on the scheme, as well as providing a "substantial increase in security".

It has signed a five-year contract with Sagem, the French company, to provide the Iris Recognition Immigration System, IRIS.

The Immigration Service will invite "certain groups of foreign nationals" to join the scheme. To qualify, would-be registrants must have a track record of complying with the UK's immigration laws.

Such people might be non EEA nationals who have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, be regular travellers or hold UK work permits, for example.

The first installation will be at Heathrow terminals two and four, with four other airports joining in 2005. The Home Office expects more than one million people will have registered to use the system within five years.

This will not be a replacement for passports, so will it save time?

A Home Office spokesman explained that the scanning process takes twelve seconds, and that this will be much faster than queuing and then being interviewed by an immigration officer on arrival, which they have to do each time they re-enter the country.

This makes the immigration process sound a little more involved that it actually is. This reporter has travelled more than once with a foreign national who was travelling into the country on a UK work visa. In his experience, the interview with the immigration officer is not a particularly lengthy process and doesn't mean going into a little room to be questioned.

These figures are based on a trial at Heathrow Airport involving 200 people, not anecdotal evidence, the Home Office spokesman soldiered on. Not much of a chance of a queue forming with 200 people, we said. But what about the millions you are expecting?

It will still be faster, he insisted, adding that the findings are also based on immigration officers' experience, and that the IRIS technology will free up their time too.

The trial was conducted at Heathrow, and was a joint project by British Airports Authority, the Immigration Service, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways.

The government will launch a publicity campaign at the end of 2004 to sell the idea to its target audience. Enrolment will be voluntary, and all applicants will be vetted very carefully. ®

Related stories

Commissioner 'increasingly alarmed' by ID card scheme
A tag too far - Blunkett's satellite tracking plans
Blunkett appoints development partner for ID card project
US lubes passports with RFID snake oil
Everything you never wanted to know about the UK ID card

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.