Thursday, October 12, 2006

British group tests "tagging" of air passengers

BBC News, via Boing Boing! is reporting that a British research instutite is field testing a new surveillance system at an airport in Hungary. The system combines RFID and video surveillance to track people throughout the airport. There are two wrinkles to be worked out: (i) making sure that passengers can't remove or swap their tags and (ii) those pesky things called "civil liberties". Hmm. Might I be so bold as to suggest (i) tracking collars and (ii) saying that only evildoers need worry about civil liberties?

BBC NEWS Technology Air passengers 'could be tagged':

Electronically tagging passengers at airports could help the fight against terrorism, scientists have said.

The prototype technology is to be tested at an airport in Hungary, and could, if successful, become a reality "in two years".

The work is being carried out at a new research centre, based at University College London, set up to find technological solutions to crime.

Other projects include scanners for explosives and dirty bomb radiation.

Dr Paul Brennan, an electrical engineer, is leading the tagging project, known as Optag.

He said: "The basic idea is that airports could be fitted with a network of combined panoramic cameras and RFID (radio frequency ID) tag readers, which would monitor the movements of people around the various terminal buildings."

The plan, he said, would be for each passenger to be issued with a tag at check-in.

He said: "In our system, the location can be detected to an accuracy of 1m, and video and tag data could be merged to give a powerful surveillance capability."

Civil liberties

The tags do not store any data, but emit a signal containing a unique ID which could be cross-referenced with passenger identification information. In the future, added Dr Brennan, this could incorporate biometric data.

The project still needs to overcome some hurdles, such as finding a way of ensuring the tags cannot be switched between passengers or removed without notification.

The issue of infringement of civil liberties will also be key.

But potentially, said Dr Brennan, the tags could aid security by allowing airports to track the movement patterns of passengers deemed to be suspicious and prevent them from entering restricted areas.

It could also aid airports by helping evacuation in case of a fire, rapidly locating children, and finding passengers who are late to arrive at the gate.

The "proof of concept" of the system is about to be tested at Debrecen airport in Hungary. If successful, claimed Dr Brennan, it could be available elsewhere within two years.

The new centre will also be investigating a range of other airport security tools.

1 comment:

David Canton said...

Why don't they just inject the RFID chips under everyone's skin while their at it?

Or paint RFID circuitry and our names on our foreheads?

Better yet, lets do that to everyone at birth. Reminds me of the old movie, "The President's Analyst" where the phone company wanted to implant phones in everyone at birth.