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Mon 28 May 2007 05:51 PM

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Biometric systems key to airport security

Fujairah Airport's new terminal is fitted with around 30 biometric recognition systems.

Biometric identity recognition systems - computer-driven applications that identify a person from a digital image - are the future of airport security, according to Fujairah International Airport (FIA) general manager, Dr. Khaled Al Mazroui.

Some 30 biometric security points have been installed in the new passenger terminal at FIA, both as part of the emirate's border control system and to limit access at various points within the airport to control and monitor the movement of personnel and passengers around the facility.

"A powerful, flexible and failure-proof access control system is needed to protect our airports from threats," said Al Mazroui, speaking today at the Airport Show in the Dubai Airport Expo.

"Furthermore we have found that we can save up to $50,000 per month by using these biometric systems because we don't need to employ as many security guards at the security points," he added.

Finger print recognition is the most widely used biometric system in the UAE's six airports, according to Al Mazroui, accounting for around 85% of the total biometric recognition systems used.

"The UAE's federal and local governments are some of the biggest investors in the Middle East in biometric technology," he said.

The new state of the art terminal at FIA employs finger print scanning, iris recognition systems and e-gate cards for passengers at border control points and customers checks, as well as at different parts of the airport with limited access, including its business class lounge.

If someone is forced to give someone else access to a room or area against their will, they can use a different finger in the scanning machine and the system will know it is a distress call, Al Mazroui explains.

The system immediately alerts airport security to the situation but still unlocks the door so as not to endanger the life of the person who is being forced to open the door.

The only area of the airport where biometric recognition is not 100% reliable is on the airside, before passengers arrive the terminal building from the aircraft.

"The heat and humidity affects the technology so it is not 100% reliable - and that is not good enough," Al Mazroui explained.

Instead passengers use a proximity card - like the e-gate card - to access the outer point of the building from the airside, he added.

In 2006, governments were the single biggest users of biometric technology, accounting for 61% of all biometric systems worldwide.

Al Mazroui also said that there were talks within the government about implementing a law whereby every time a resident applies for or renews a residency visa in the UAE, they must get or already have an e-gate card.

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