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At U.S. Airports, Biometrics Standards Help Registered Travelers Speed through Checkpoints


New York, Jun 26, 2007

Have airport travelers seen the end of congested security checkpoints, serpentine lines, and missed flights? A biometrics-based program now underway at select airports offers pre-screened flyers expedited passage through dedicated security lanes.

Operated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in cooperation with industry partners, the Registered Traveler (RT) program provides TSA-approved passengers with “smart” cards that validate identity and prevent fraudulent use by unauthorized persons. Encoded with a passenger’s unique biometric data, the smart cards are cross-checked and verified against a registered traveler’s fingerprints or iris image.

To facilitate interoperability and performance between various airports and service providers, the Registered Traveler Interoperability Consortium (RTIC)—along with a council of private sector service providers specializing in biometrics, smart cards, identity management, and related solutions—developed the RTIC Technical Interoperability Specification . American National Standards Institute (ANSI) members Daon and Unisys actively participated on the council, with Daon serving as chair of the RTIC Technical Interoperability Standards Working Group. The technical interoperability specification stipulates the use of several well-known national and international biometric standards.

Due to its broad acceptance across industry with regard to interchanging fingerprint information, the RTIC based its biometric enrollment data on ANSI/NIST-ITL 1, Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial, & Scar Mark & Tattoo (SMT) Information. Published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the document enables the electronic encoding and transmittal of data such as fingerprint, palm-print, mug shot, scar mark and tattoo images, along with associated biographic information.

Because image quality has a direct effect on subsequent matching performance, assessing fingerprint image quality is a critical element of the RT program. As such, NIST algorithm NISTIR 7151, Fingerprint Image Quality, is used in conjunction with INCITS 378-2004, Information technology - Finger Minutiae Format for Data Interchange, the U.S. national standard that enables fingerprint data to be exchanged. INCITS 378-2004 was developed by INCITS (the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards), an ANSI-accredited standards developer that serves as a primary U.S. focal point for standardization in the field of information and communications technologies.

In lieu of fingerprints, RT applicants can opt to submit an iris scan of their eye. Using a small camera, an iris scan system examines small details in the eye’s stromal pattern. All iris images used in the RT program must conform to ISO/IEC 19794-6:2005, Information technology - Biometric data interchange formats - Part 6: Iris image data, which specifies image interchange formats for biometric iris recognition authentication systems. The standard was developed by the U.S.-administered ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee on Information Technology (ISO/IEC JTC 1) and its Subcommittee on Biometrics (SC 37). INCITS M1 serves as the U.S. Technical Advisory Group for JTC 1/SC 37, and is responsible for establishing U.S. positions and contributions to the subcommittee.

At the time of enrollment, an applicant’s digital facial photograph is also collected. INCITS 385-2004, Information technology - Face Recognition Format for Data Interchange, offers enrollment providers guidance on facial image capture conditions. Specifically, the standard details various photographic properties (i.e., environment, subject pose, focus), digital image attributes, and an interchange format. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has adopted INCTS 385-2004 as an official DHS standard.

Registered Traveler lanes are now operating at JFK, Orlando, San Jose, Cincinnati and Indianapolis International Airports. Additional lanes are expected to deploy soon at Newark Liberty, Little Rock, Albany, Washington, DC (Reagan and Dulles), San Francisco and Denver International Airports.

In conjunction with the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), Daon provides the central information management system component of the RT program, which aggregates, stores, and distributes information to all participating RT entities. In addition, Daon provides identity management components for the Clear and rtGO service provider systems. rtGO is operated by Unisys, which ran three of TSA’s five pilot RT programs.

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