Visited the Biometrics 2003 and IDSmart and Compsec exhibition at the QE2 Conference centre near Parliament in London.
There was a comprehensive display of Biometric Fingerprint scanning , Iris scanning and Facial Recognition systems, as well as Smart Cards and RFID chips, from some of the world's leading vendors of these technologies.
Tried out various fingerprint scanners, which only confirmed that the US Government plans for grabbing fingerprint scans of both index fingers of every tourist and business visitor to the USA is going to lead to massive extra queues and delays.
Systems which are ok for low volume use e.g. providing an extra layer of protection for accessing your laptop or desktop computer (one or two people), or for door entry systems (dozens or hundreds of people) have no hope of coping with Jumbo jets full of passengers every hour.
It is not the high tech neural network recognition software which is the problem so much as the physical build up of grime and oil from hundreds of fingerprints on a particular reader. Many of the capacitative plate readers were displaying the previous person's latent fingerprint. Even the superior line scanning device gave errors in 3 out of 5 attempts.
There is no way that the claim that "it will only take a few seconds" per tourist will stand up in real life, even setting aside deliberate attempts at forgery or replay of other people's fingerprints.
The Iris Scanning machines and Facial Recognition Cameras on display which are being tested at a few airports are all very well, but they all have a limited field of view vertically. This means that one Iris Scanner or Camera set at one height cannot hope to cope with all the people on an average Jumbo jet without causing pain and discomfort to a large number of people. Adjusting the height of the equipment invetiably leads to slower throughput and must lead to queues. Will cash strapped authorities really fork out extra money for Iris Scanners or Facial Recognition cameras set at two or 3 different ergonomic heights ?
Although not primarily an RFID tag/Smart Label show, there were a couple of exhibitors showing RFID tags and the more established (and expensive) contactless Smart Card technology.
Also on view was one of the first Digital Tachograph Smart Cards which are due to be introduced into every new Heavy Goods Vehicle or Bus in the European Union from August 2004. The personal data stored on this card makes it yet another European Union Passport/Driving Licence digital ID card project, but one which seems to be planned to be introduced into the UK first.
Naturally, there are already problems with getting all the equipment to be interoperable, and it may be 2005 before this Digital Tachograph Smart Card is introduced.