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Heathrow to get new facial recognition scanners

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Passengers going through terminals one and five at Heathrow will have their faces scanned from September before they board their planes, airport operator BAA has announced.

Travellers will be enrolled into a facial recognition system and the biometrics linked with the boarding pass on entry into the common user lounges at the terminals. Passengers will then be verified against their previous enrolment before boarding their flight.

The aim of technology, which will be provided by biometric software firm Aurora in partnership with security company Atkins, is to help prevent an instance where an international passenger swaps tickets with a domestic passenger in the departure lounge.

Atkins Passenger Authentication Scanning System (PASS2) has been present at Heathrow since 2008 to help with passenger processing, but this will now be used in conjunction with the Aurora Imaging Recognition (AIR) system to deliver the facial recognition service.

Trials carried out by BAA and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) indicated that the technology can deliver an average verification time of 4.7 seconds.

A spokeswoman for BAA said: "In line with UKBA requirements, we are introducing technology that will enable us to more accurately reconcile images of passengers flying domestically.

"For passengers this means a faster journey through ticket presentation and use of lounge facilities, which previously would only have been accessible to international travellers."

Aurora said that 82 units had been ordered for terminals one and five "including some spares". There will also be 60 handheld units given to operators.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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