Feeds

Two UK airports scrap IRIS eye-scanners

Border Agency puts multimillion-pound system under review

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
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
Pedals and wheel in that Google robo-car or it's off the road – Cali DMV
And insists on $5 million insurance per motor against accidents
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
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.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
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.
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?