E-security to get less time consuming at airports

By : |November 22, 2001 0

Michael Conlon

CHICAGO: In the world before terrorism put a chokehold on airports, there was
a push for new technology to get passengers past the gate and on board the plane
faster than ever. Have those developments become another casualty of Sept. 11?


Not according to Aeritas Inc., a Texas company that has been working on a
high-tech system using voice prints and wireless telephones.

Tim Whatley, the company’s chief executive officer, says the time-consuming
security measures put in place at airports since the attacks on New York’s World
Trade Center and the US Pentagon are causing airlines to take a new look at ways
to cut their processing costs and make life easier for their most frequent and
valuable customers — business travelers who normally account for as much as
two-thirds of a carrier’s revenue.

The Aeritas system, called "FreedomPass," allows passengers to
register their voice print, an identification marker considered to be as
accurate as finger prints.

Voice verification
On the day of travel, a passenger receives a message on his or her Web-enabled
wireless phone. The passenger confirms by voice that he or she is the ticket
holder, thus authenticating the voice print. The passenger at that point is also
asked the FAA-required questions about luggage not having been out of their
possession or packed by someone else.

When the process is completed, an electronic boarding pass with a bar code is
sent to the screen on the telephone. The passenger need only wave the telephone
screen over the same electronic scanner that verifies paper tickets and walk
down the ramp. There would be no need to stop at the counter and show a driver’s
license or other identification, and perhaps a paper with proof of itinerary, as
happens when picking up a regular electronic ticket.

A personal digital assistant can also be used, but it must be one of the
newer ones with a voice component or capable of being used with a wireless phone
in order to authenticate the voice print. In addition, the system has a photo
identification component. The user must have his or her picture taken once in
controlled circumstances so the company can verify that the picture matches the
voice and other personal data.

Software allows the picture to pop up on the computer screen attached to the
gate devices so the person letting passengers board has a face along with the
electronic bar code for verification.

Cost cutter
The people most likely to use and benefit from this system are frequent
travelers who would save time, Whatley says. In addition, the airlines would be
reducing their boarding costs which he estimates have risen from the previous $7
per passenger to perhaps $9 to $11 today.

He also suggests that the system might have an application at the carry-on
luggage and passenger screening point where long lines now form. Whatley said it
may be possible working with the government to add an "express lane"
for the most frequent and easily verified passengers to get them past the
screening checkpoint using the same electronic bar code and photo ID system.

Whatley said the new security measures have acted as a catalyst and airlines
"are definitely interested in entertaining these types of solutions …
We’ve had discussions with several large airlines and are moving forward with
Lufthansa on a pilot that will start before the end of the year involving 2,000
passengers on their Frankfurt-Munich route," a city pair that sees heavy
business travel."

He said the system involves very little up-front cost from the airlines. The
company would earn money by charging the carriers a fee for each transaction.

(C) Reuters Limited.

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