Biometric Baggage Check-in and More


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Back in January we reported on the use of biometric scanners at Heathrow and other international airports. Now two more biometric applications that will impact international travelers are coming down the pike, both from Precise Biometrics, a Swedish company with subsidiaries in the US and UK. So if you’re planning a trip overseas, get ready for the next wave in high-tech travel.

The first new system is in response to the American Civil Aviation Administration’s requirement that airlines operating at US airports guarantee that when someone checks in luggage for a flight the same person actually boards the plane. This new requirement is part of the Homeland Security Department’s strategy for improving identity tracking and hence security at airports throughout the country.

To meet the requirement, Scandinavian Airlines chose Precise Biometrics to develop a system that would work quickly and short-term. As reported by Internet Travel News (June 28, 2006) and the company’s website (, passengers will leave their fingerprints on a fingerprint scanner at the baggage check-in. The prints are temporarily stored there. Then, when the passenger reaches the boarding ramp, his fingerprints are scanned again. The new print is matched against the previously stored print at the baggage counter, verifying that the two prints were provided by the same individual. To protect personal privacy, once the match is made and the passenger has boarded the plane, both fingerprints are deleted.

The second new application will be encoded on passports. Precise Biometrics and its partner company, World Wide Trust ( are jointly developing a Match-on-CardTM application that will employ fingerprint-reading technology in passports for a European country (none of the websites that I researched mentioned which country – my guess is that it’s either Sweden or Greece, where WWT is based). While licensing of the technology to WWT has begun, the actual implementation of the technology to newly issued passports is not expected to begin until later this year, and will continue through approximately 2012.

So it seems that James Bond and all the other famous and unknown spies will have to find a new way to create their own passports under false identities. Maybe micron-thin, flesh-colored gloves with phony fingerprints built into the fabric? As for the rest of us, we’ll just have to make sure that our fingerprints don’t change between the time we get our passports, check our luggage in, and board our flight.

Bon voyage!

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Andrew Reed grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. He moved to New York in 1970, and following his undergraduate studies at Columbia University he became a marketing specialist with National Broadcasting and other companies. He returned to the WNC mountains in 1993, where he works as an editor, freelance writer, and marketing consultant. He operates a web-based editing and marketing company, , and specializes in writing for web sites.


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