Facial recognition to spell the end for IRIS?

13 May 2009 by Mark Caswell

Trials of facial recognition immigration gates at Stansted and Manchester airports are to be extended to ten UK terminals by August this year, designed to cut queues at arrivals and improve border control.

The gates can be used by any British or European passenger carrying an e-passport with an electronic chip. The system scans passengers’ faces and checks them against their digital passport photo, and has been used by nearly 160,000 passengers at Stansted airport since December.

The UK Border Agency, which is running the trials in partnership with the airports and BAA, says that passengers who have changed their appearance since their passport photo was taken will not pose a problem for the new system, as it measures points on a person’s face and so will still be able to compare them accurately.

The gates also undertake checks against security watchlists, as well as checking passports for evidence of tamper. Passengers using the system are also subject to random manual checks.

Unlike the IRIS recognition scheme (which is in place at several UK airports and allows passengers to bypass arrivals queues by using a separate queue), no pre-registration is needed to use the gates. The only requirements are that the passenger must by from the UK or the European Economic Area (EEA), and be carrying a biometric passport, of which 17 million have been issued in the UK since they were introduced in 2006.

The IRIS scheme has received mixed reviews since it was introduced, and has attracted a huge number of forum posts by visitors. To read these and have your say, click here.

For more information on the facial recognition scheme and its rollout, click here.

Report by Mark Caswell

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