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Birmingham Gets Biometric Security

For faster immigration checks, Terminal 1 at the British city's airport starts using iris-scanning technology to identify travelers who sign up for the program

Birmingham Airport has launched a security system based on biometric technology.

The launch at Birmingham Terminal 1 is part of the nationwide rollout at airports across the UK of Project Iris - the Iris Recognition Immigration System - which uses iris-scanning technology to identify frequent travellers and speed up immigration checks.

Travellers who sign up to the scheme will be able to walk up to an automated barrier in the airport, look into a camera and, if the system recognises them, enter the UK.

Peter Cochrane, a blogger and frequent business traveller, said the Birmingham iris-scanning system will offer a "huge improvement" to flyers. He added that iris-scanning is the "most reliable biometric" - and is about six orders of magnitude more accurate than a biometric DNA sample.

Cochrane said: "I think [iris-scanning] is absolutely essential unless you want to spend your life waiting in line all day."

More than 61,000 people across the UK have now registered with Iris and the system has handled more than 210,000 border crossings.

The biometric technology works by photographing a passenger's iris pattern and storing the data in a database, together with passport details.

Iris was launched at London's Heathrow airport in March 2006. The system is currently operational at Heathrow Terminals 1 to 4, Manchester Terminals 1 and 2, Birmingham Terminal 1 and Gatwick North, with Gatwick South due to get it during 2007.

A one-off enrolment process for the Iris system takes about five minutes and is free. Registration is conducted by immigration staff in each airport's departures area.

In related news, more than 90 per cent of UK consumers have voiced their support for biometrics - and said they want banks, credit card companies, health providers and government bodies to adopt biometric technologies to verify personal identities, as oppose to other methods such as smartcards.

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