The Looming Deadline

By Larry Barrett  |  Posted 2002-10-11 Print this article Print

Despite post-9/11 promises, airport security is still experiencing turbulence.

The Looming Deadline

The TSA faces an Oct. 26 deadline to comply with the usa patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism), passed by Congress last year. The TSA must finalize regulations that would ensure creation and maintenance of a set of minimum customer-identification standards, and provide a means for cross-checking them against agency lists of suspected terrorists and their organizations.

Despite this decree, to date the TSA has signed off on only one biometric technology pilot program: a fingerprinting system for temporary storage lockers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"It is pretty ironic that our test program is the only biometric pilot the TSA has approved since 9/11," says Tammy Phippen, the marketing manager for Smarte Carte, the St. Paul, Minn.-based manufacturer of storage lockers and baggage carts at 42 U.S. airports. "And all of our lockers are actually past the first security check so it's not really that big of a deal anyway."

Smarte Carte installed sensors developed by technology security firm Digital Persona. The sensors take a digital snapshot of a finger and store it on a database connected to a Windows OS. When the customer returns to the locker, they put the same finger on the sensor to open the locker. The lockers are monitored through a LAN connection to Smarte Carte's central office. At any time, the company could open one or all of the lockers remotely for inspection.

If the pilot project is successful, Phippen says, there are many more potential applications for the technology. "All we'd need is some direction from the government."

Senior Writer
Larry, of San Carlos, Calif., was a senior writer and editor at CNet, writing analysis, breaking news and opinion stories. He was technology reporter at the San Jose Business Journal from 1996-1997. He graduated with a B.A. from San Jose State University where he was also executive editor of the daily student newspaper.

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