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After over ten years of heightened security at American airports, it seems there may be a few ways for qualified travelers to relax.

As announced earlier this month, the TSA has created a new program called Global Check, which allows authorized travelers who travel internationally to apply for an expedited checkpoint clearance for “pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival into the United States”. With the scan of your passport and a four-finger biometric fingerprint scan, you may receive expedited treatment at security checkpoints around the airport. However, this does not come as a guarantee, as the TSA has still vowed to proceed with random checks around the airport to maintain a high level of security.

As reported by Joe Sharkey of the New York Times earlier this month, certain travelers are also passing through airport security without having to disrobe, dismantle and with their dignity intact.

The Transportation Security Administration has also launched a second program known as PreCheck, allowing another small number of qualified travelers the ability to speed through security checkpoints without the usual routine of removing jackets and shoes as well as displaying laptops from bags, and carrying liquids and gels in see-through containers. This program was designed more for the domestic flyer, as Global Entry is an international option.

As the majority of passengers, do not have access to this PreCheck program (it is a program cultivated from the ideal that frequent travelers who spend the most money are also the easiest to track because their travel patterns are understandable and familiar), it is still not a complete solution to airport delays, extended wait times and inconvenient hassles for every day travelers.

The TSA has also specified that members who are accepted into Global Entry could potentially receive expedited treatment at PreCheck equipped airports as well and vice versa.

Airport guards check credentials at an aiport

"When choosing the proper biometric device for your airport you should.... choose a solution with the right mix of security, handiness, and accessibility."

Our last post, Airport Biometrics, discussed all of the advantages for airports to choose biometric systems and technologies as their access control systems.  While we definitely agree that it’s a no brainer for airports to go biometric, there are still many different criteria involved in selecting which line of biometric readers to go with. We will concentrate on what airports’ needs are (with regards to selecting the proper hardware) in this post.  The following criteria are of top priority for airports when selecting their biometric access control system:  Smoothness of workflow, wireless abilities, numerous methods of identification, offline tasks, design quality, accuracy.

Smoothness of Workflow:

As we were touching upon in our last post, one of the most important qualities of any access control system for airports is the ability to maintain smoothness of workflow.  Access control systems should never retard the daily activities of employees; rather it should speed up the daily processes.  HR managers need to be sure that whatever biometric access control system they use will be reliable to work consistently, without wasting valuable time.

Wireless Abilities:

While biometric access control systems can be set up with a cable, which may be appropriate for offices and buildings, it is not the most practical method of communication in an airport.  First of all because airports are so large, and one zone can be miles and miles away from another zone, it would be a waste of money to connect the zones with cables. Also, considering the security threats at hand, airports do not want to give terrorists and other threatening people the ability to take down the whole system with a cut cable.  Because of these reasons it is a necessity for airports to choose a biometric product with incorporated wireless capabilities.

Numerous Methods of Identification:

The biometric identification station should be able to handle all the different means of identification and authentication.  The station should be able to read a badge or ID card, confirm biometric identification, verify passwords, etc.  It is always more useful to have the option to require more forms of identification than less.  As different situations come along, airports will be able to configure the authentication requirements of different zones as deemed necessary.

Offline tasks:

Whether it is from a blackout, network error, or other malfunction, there will be times throughout the life of an airport that the airport’s network goes offline.  These are not pleasant for anybody but they are a normal part of life.  Airports must prepare for these situations by choosing the biometric device that best handles offline use.  While a network is down, workflow continues as best as possible, and workers still need to be authorized properly to enter certain zones.  Devices must be able to identify and communicate with other zones even when the network is offline.  This is usually only made possible if the credentials can be stored on each and every device.  This allows workflow to go on as smoothly as possible.

Design Quality:

Every manufacturer will tell you that their devices are designed and built with the highest quality and standards.  We all know that it would be impossible for all of the different biometric devices on the market to be of the same superior design quality.  How do we weed out the cream of the crop?  WE must examine every single part of the device: The sensor, case, the quality of electronics, wireless networking abilities, standards compliance and more. Because airports are outside, they experience a diverse selection of weather conditions. Will the device function properly in extreme climate conditions?  How cold, hot, snowy, wet, etc., can the device be expected to function properly in?  Some devices will prosper in these extreme conditions, while others will fail the instant the temperature reaches freezing (or boiling).  Besides for the devices resistance to extreme weather conditions, is the device made to withstand the heavy usage that can be expected at airports all day every day?  Airports need to make sure they are getting the best quality devices available to the market based on their excruciating needs.

Accuracy:

While many devices will pass the design quality tests explained in the last paragraph, many of them will work with significantly less accuracy in these conditions. Many devices will fail to operate effectively and accurately when they get wet, cold, etc. This is an extremely important criterion because airports need to make sure the devices are working accurately at all times.

When choosing the proper biometric device for your airport you should consider all of the above criteria.  You should choose a solution with the right mix of security, handiness, and accessibility.  Airports should use the highest standards when selecting the proper biometric access control system.  Airports that use the steps provided in this article and implement a biometric system will benefit right away.

Millions and millions of passengers travel in and out of Airports around the globe every single day.  It has become extremely clear over the last few years that airports are a main target for terrorists and others interested in causing harm to society.  Airport security is a major priority for governments and airlines worldwide.  Securing an airport is not anything like securing anywhere else.  The stakes are much higher in airports; everybody is extra cautious and vigilant for suspicious behaviors.   With new technologies coming out rapidly, airports have no excuse in not providing a cutting edge access control system in order to protect passengers.

Does your airport employ the latest biometric readers or biometric security measures?
Biometric fingerprint readers and scanners allow airports to monitor zones much more effectively and efficiently.

Airports are constantly testing and implementing many different options in order to make sure that passengers are traveling safely and securely.  The efforts made to secure these areas have included increased manpower (police and security), increased searching and interrogating, and increased surveillance systems.  Entry to certain areas must be very closely and meticulously guarded and monitored. A common tactic of terrorists is identity theft.  They will steal an airport employee’s uniform, badge, and access card to gain entry to the areas of choice.   Biometric fingerprint readers and scanners allow airports to monitor zones much more effectively and efficiently.  Airports can use biometric fingerprint readers to better identify employees as they go into and out of certain areas of the airport.  Fingerprint scanners and readers can be placed at the entrances and exits of security checkpoints, in order to identify employees as they pass through secure areas.

Besides for assisting with the extremely important security issue at hand in airports, fingerprint readers and scanners can be configured to tie into the airports time and attendance system, to help manage the airport employees’ hours and payrolls.  This helps prevent employees from lying about their hours, and/or having a co-worker sign them in at the wrong time.  This saves the airports a lot of time and money.

These days it would be extremely irresponsible for airports to not deploy biometric readers and scanners in order to prevent security breaches.   When designing or revamping an airport’s infrastructure, managers should be educated in the different biometric fingerprint technologies and solutions.  Airports having biometric fingerprint reader infrastructure in place will provide the airport, its shareholders, and, most importantly, the passengers, with peace of mind.

Since airports have many different security levels varying  from passenger entrances, security checkpoints, TSA only zones, worker only zones, etc., airports must be very careful in selecting what type of access control system to use.  The access control system must be extremely secure and appropriate for the challenging airport use.  It must at the same time allow workers, passengers, and personnel, the ability to move along with their activities as smoothly as possible.

Continue reading Airport Biometrics Part II: What to look for when selecting a biometric solution for your airport.