November 01, 2004

Airport Checkin and Biometrics

Santiago Airport in Chile, recently opened 60 checkpoint kiosks utilizing biometric security software

Linux prepares a Chile reception for terrorists
Monday November 01, 2004 (02:00 PM GMT)
By: Tina Gasperson

Airport security is an ever-growing concern these days, as fears about the potential for terrorist attacks loom worldwide. One airport adopting major security upgrades is the Santiago Airport in Chile, which recently opened 60 checkpoint kiosks utilizing biometric security software running on SUSE Enterprise Linux.
this year, the Policia Investigaciones de Chile (PICH), the Chilean equivalent of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, wanted to implement a biometrics access control system at the airport. The security upgrade project is a collaborative effort between Unisys, which provided the hardware, Intelitrac, the creator of the biometrics security system, and AssureTec and Cognitec, developers of facial recognition and document-scanning software.

The system combines facial recognition, document authentication, and fingerprint verification technologies into a single package that is easily deployed in a manned kiosk and managed from a data center on the premises.

When a traveler comes to the checkpoint, he hands over his passport to the customs official, who puts it through a document reader. The information goes to a live database where it is checked against known suspicious individuals. At the same time, a digital camera takes a picture of the traveler, which is also transmitted to the database for "one-to-many" comparison against some 750,000 images, which include the faces of fugitives, terrorists, and other criminals. At the same time, the image goes through a "one-to-one" comparison process which checks the live image against the passport photo for positive identification.

If necessary for further assurance of identify, the kiosk also houses digital fingerprinting equipment. Finally, the system sends an alert to the Chilean airport security officers about potential criminals, while they are still standing at the kiosk.

One of the requirements the PICH had for the project was that all the security checks at any given kiosk with any given traveler would take no longer than a total of 45 seconds. To meet that requirement, Intelitrac used relational databases that reside in RAM, running on two 64-bit Itanium 2 ES700s servers with SUSE Enterprise Linux.

To the delight of PICH and the vendor team, the biometric security process ended up taking only about 30 seconds. The facial recognition portion of the process alone is amazingly fast; it takes only about one second to check through three-quarters of a million images, even using Intelitrac's morphing technology, in which the software creates a three-dimensional, rotating image from a standard mugshot so that variances in camera angles on live shots at the kiosk don't create a hindrance to identification.

Tianlong Chen, CTO of Intelitrac, said that the biometrics security deployment was a first for his company. "There were some challenges in fine-tuning the system," he said.

One challenge the team faced with the system was the threat of power outages or surges. A database that lives in RAM is incredibly fast, but highly volatile -- disappearing without a trace when the power goes out or even just flickers. Intelitrac overcame this obstacle by developing a system whereby the two servers deploy a load-balancing scheme, backing each other up in real time, and performing frequent hard disk backups to both machines for extra assurance of data protection.

Intelitrac also created a custom management system for kiosk operations. The entire project is managed via a Web-based console that feeds directly from the Linux servers.

In the second phase of the project, the PICH expects to deploy 40 more kiosks at the Santiago Airport, as well as new implementations of the biometrics system at other airports and border control checkpoints in Chile.

Posted by Craig at November 1, 2004 08:31 PM