Feeds

Two UK airports scrap IRIS eye-scanners

Border Agency puts multimillion-pound system under review

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The UK Border Agency's multi-million-pound hi-tech eye-scanner programme is in danger of being scrapped, with two airports ditching the service and registration now closed.

A UKBA spokeswoman told The Register that the system was "under review", but Manchester and Birmingham airports have already stopped using their scanners.

"Obviously there's lots of new technology that's coming through at the moment – biometric passports, fingerprints – so UKBA are reviewing all the technology that's in place and iris scanning is one of them," she said.

"Iris was good technology at the time, but faster and more reliable options have become available and have been rolled out across the border so that's where we are with things."

The UKBA website said that IRIS was no longer available at Birmingham and Manchester airports, but was still open at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

However, people are no longer able to register their eyes for the scheme, which was supposed to speed up the immigration control process for known users.

"All of our enrolment rooms at Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester airports are closed until further notice," the website said.

Passengers holding a British or EU passport with a biometrics chip will still be able to use the e-Passport gates to skip the manual immigration queues.

The IRIS scheme, which was launched in 2005/2006, cost around £4.9m to develop, the UKBA spokeswoman said.

The project was supposed to help speed up passport queues, but during the years it was operational, it was constantly being criticised.

Travellers apparently had a lot of trouble lining up their eyes with the iris recognition camera, resulting in the identification taking a lot longer than it was supposed to. Other passengers wouldn't be recognised at all by the computer system and ended up having to be manually checked anyway.

A government report that pointed out the system's shortcomings was published five years ago.

The UKBA spokesperson said that all tech implementations had their problems.

"We have to accept with any technology that there's always going to be times when it doesn't work," she said.

London's Heathrow terminals 1, 3, 4 and 5 are still using IRIS, as is Gatwick North, and the system will continue to be used there during the massive influx of travellers for the Olympics this summer.

There's been a lot of concern about IT systems that airports will be relying on to get visitors and competitors through border control for the games. Earlier this month, it was reported that Heathrow might not get facial recognition technology for non-EU travellers planned for all five of its terminals in time. And that implementation has been held up because UKBA is busy investigating the scandal that erupted when it was claimed that fingerprint checks were regularly abandoned to speed things up.

The UKBA spokeswoman said that the agency was working closely with officials in different countries to collect biometric data on individual competitors and their families ahead of the Olympics so they won't be held up, and added that there would be additional staff during the Games. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
Apple tried to get a ban on Galaxy, judge said: NO, NO, NO
Judge Koh refuses Samsung ban for the third time
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
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.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
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.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?