Editor / Provider: Compiled by a&s International | Updated: 5/28/2013 | Article type: Tech Corner
In science fiction, biometric identification represents a futuristic icon. Today, biometrics have become more commonplace, with mobile devices incorporating biometric authentication to replace weaker security measures, such as passwords. Many have turned to biometrics not only for the added security and accountability, but also for the value-added services and limitless possibilities.
Homeless Service Management
In the U.S., one recent application demonstrates the development of a centrally managed homeless management information system (HMIS). It helps manage data on homeless individuals and analyzes who received services in order to pinpoint demand. However, tracking and managing homeless individuals require a great amount of labor as they lack fixed addresses. Before, the only way to track them was through signature-based sign-in forms when they entered homeless shelters. However, these hand-written forms were prone to fraud, which led to more work and waste in resources. To address this problem, Bergen County — part of the New York City metropolitan area and the most populous county in New Jersey — turned to fingerprint systems for its Department of Human Services for more accurate identification and efficient data management to manage part of its homeless service program.
Each individual who wishes to come for a meal or access the shelter for the first time is asked for a fingerprint scan on an Internet-based platform deployed in the caseworker's computer. The fingerprint file will be stored in a single fingerprint database under the country's data center for client identification at their subsequent accesses, to allow for quicker entry by placing their fingers on the sensor. In the same manner, user access to the system is also guarded by the technology where system operators are also required to be fingerprinted to log in. The database system is based on Fulcrum Biometrics' modular development framework and managed by Eyemetric Identity Systems, a biometric solution provider. The system was designed to operate independently from New Jersey's HMIS while maintaining automated information exchange with the federal system to keep both databases updated. Furthermore, the database has restricted interoperability and cannot be checked against any law enforcement databases. “To meet this requirement, the application is configured not to save the raw fingerprint images. The system only saves the fingerprint template required for matching and client identification,” said Ray Bolling, cofounder and President of Eyemetric.
The system has helped the department efficiently document the use of other services such as showers, caseworker appointments, and computer and telephone use. Bergen County's system has been running as a pilot since 2009, serving as a test case statewide and nationwide. The adoption of biometrics in social services is expected to expand. “The first step in delivering social benefits is to identify clients,” Bolling stressed. “Given current conditions, it is time to explore new ways of delivering services more effectively and efficiently while remaining humane and respectful to clients. Biometric identification is the ideal means to meet that challenge.”
Self-Service License Renewal
Self-service is largely praised for time and labor savings. In some parts of the world, automated machines are gradually taking over in restaurants and movie theaters where, traditionally, the presence of service attendants was required. In the U.S., self-service has entered the public service sector. Since the early 2000s, US citizens have been able to conduct online driver's license renewals, although they are still required to visit the motor vehicle office to have their photos and signatures taken, depending on the state.
In 2009, Mississippi became the first state to deploy self-service driver's license renewal/replacement kiosks with a photography function that incorporates a facial biometric identification system. Cooperating with MorphoTrust USA (a Safran Group company), the Mississippi Department of Public Safety adopted a system that streamlined the licensing operations and reduced customer wait time. Mississippi is followed by a number of states, including Delaware, Indiana, Alabama and more. Tennessee deployed its self-service solutions in the beginning of 2013.
Such kiosks help initiate the applicant enrolment process and enable self-service and cashless transactions; one can make payment on the machine with a credit/debit card. Customers are guided through a series of prompts and are asked to securely enter personal information on the kiosks' touch screen menus. For identity theft prevention, the facial recognition technology and image verification software are embedded in each kiosk. The machine will take a photo of the applicant, and the software matches it against with the existing photos in the database networked with state driver's license records to verify the person's identity. After the identity confirmation, an interim receipt will be printed out for temporary use until the secure card is mailed out from the central issuance facility.
“This new technology makes the renewal and replacement process simple, and gives Mississippians the option of visiting one of our driver services' buildings or one of the kiosk machines,” said the Mississippi Department of Public Safety in a prepared announcement. Bill Gibbons, Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, agreed in an interview with MorphoTrust: “In some cases, we're saving our customers a nearly 20-mile drive plus the time spent waiting in line by placing our kiosks in locations that are convenient to them.”
Enhanced Airport Experience
On top of the stress from organizing trips, many travelers dread the long lines at the airport check-in counter. Trying to navigate the airport causes more headaches, taking all the joy out of a not-yet-begun journey. While compromising security for speed is not an option, many airports have reexamined the bottlenecks and turned to technology to speed up the processing of travelers. They automate procedures and take care of the chores that ground crew used to handle.
Gatwick Airport is the second largest and busiest international airport in London. According to its website, 34.2 million passengers passed through it in 2012 alone. Aiming to reduce queues generated by heavy foot traffic and ensure each passenger is treated like a special guest, the airport recently tested the use of biometric and analytic technology to personalize and improve travel experience. HRS Systems, a British biometric solution provider, was approached to help demonstrate this capability.
According to HRS, the concept of the trial was based on what travelers wanted from airports in the future and the airport's customer-focused commitments — to create a more personalized airport experience. The journey begins when travelers are identified using facial recognition upon their arrival at the parking barrier. The barrier is then opened after the verification, which triggers the system to send an email or text via the Gatwick mobile app to the traveler's cellular phone and guide them to the parking space reserved for them. “The modality of the biometrics used may vary; for simplicity's sake, the concept used facial biometrics via strategically placed cameras to identify the traveler. It then checks this ‘template' against the database and opens the barrier once a positive match has been made,” said Ian Cushion, Marketing Manager at HRS. “The database is based on frequent registered passengers who are already known to the airport with an existing biometric and user profile enroled in the airport system.”
A series of personalized guidance messages following the first are set to be delivered to the traveler's smartphone along the way. Once they enter the terminal, the app sends another message to notify the passenger of their flight information and the location of their check-in counter, along with a general welcome message. “This welcome can be personalized to advise the traveler of any events or offers that are currently running that they may be interested in based on their previously stored profile,” added Cushion.
Based on the traveler's stored profile and previous purchases, the system feeds personalized adverts as they travel through the airport. In addition, the airport also plans to deploy iris recognition technology that is currently under live trial at the airport's auto-boarding system. “At check-in, travelers use designated self-service bag drops to deposit their hold luggage and enroll themselves biometrically via unobtrusive iris recognition.” Cushion said. “Enroled travelers can then utilize automated self-service gates to board the aircraft through a combination of iris recognition and presenting a valid boarding card.”
The trial demonstration is part of a US$1.8 billion investment program to modernize Gatwick Airport's facilities and improve the overall passenger experience. In 2012, Gatwick Airport won the Best Security and Immigration Experience Award for improvement on its security and immigration process and the implementation of biometrics.