Resistance to full-body scans and pat-downs has security agencies around the world searching for a new, less-invasive tool to separate law-abiding travelers from suspected terrorists. Consensus is building that the next step is likely to be iris recognition technology.
AOptix has been doing research and development in this area for the past 10 years, and field testing is underway to verify its accuracy and reliability.
The Campbell-based company is one of about 20 companies around the world, working on iris recognition systems. Only about five are considered leading contenders. The Silicon Valley firm is believed to be the farthest along in deploying the technology, which has been developed in conjunction with U.S. and foreign security officials.
Called "InSight," It would be at the heart of a trusted traveler program in which passengers would register, have their irises photographed, and undergo a background check.
The newest generation of AOptix's technology allows a person to be verified within two or three seconds while standing about six feet away from the recognition device. It could be installed at a turnstile and move passengers through a security checkpoint quickly.
The camera is able to adapt to tall or short passengers, or even persons in wheelchairs, without any adjustment by the traveler. This would allow security personnel to give more scrutiny to passengers who are not pre-screened or who trigger a closer inspection.
A previous trusted traveler program called Clear, which recently resumed limited operations after its original owner declared bankruptcy, uses a combination of an eye scan and fingerprint recognition to speed passengers through security.
The iris yields 200 data points, compared to 15 to 60 points for a fingerprint.
Joseph Pritikin, an electrical engineer and director of product marketing at AOptix, believes widespread deployment of iris recognition technology at the nation's airports is about one or two years off. He says a major selling point is the non-invasive nature of the technology.