EDS launches aviation security suite

Collaboration among the government, airlines and airports will be the key to making a new integrated suite of digital security offerings for the aviation industry work, according to Electronic Data Systems Corp., which unveiled the suite Nov. 12 at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas.

The security suite combines smart card and biometric technologies with data management and integration capabilities to help ensure the safety and security of passengers, airport personnel and airline employees, said Jim Dullum, president of EDS' global transportation industry group.

The suite's offerings include:

* Passenger risk scoring: This system, operated in a client/server environment, alerts authorities to potentially threatening passengers who are seeking to purchase a ticket. Among the criteria are criminal history, cash or credit card purchase and whether the passenger wants a round-trip or one-way itinerary.

* Passenger authentication: This uses biometrics to identify "known" people who have pre-registered for travel via an opt-in smart card system. This enables authorities to concentrate on "unknown" travelers.

* Employee access: This uses a biometrics-enabled smart card system to authenticate airport employees and regulate access to certain areas.

* Airport perimeter security: This uses radio frequency technology to monitor airport vehicles and grant or deny access to restricted areas, as well as performing remote video inspection.

"The front end should be government controlled and oriented, at least for setting parameters," Dullum said. "But a government entity should be driving the protocols for how we grab the data and making sure it's safe and secure" because the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the FBI and other federal and international systems will be involved.

EDS is using Comdex as a way to gauge the "level of acceptance" for the different biometric offerings that are available, such as whether fingerprints are preferable to facial recognition or retinal scanning. Company officials are finding that most people have taken a "whatever it takes, we're willing to do it" attitude, Dullum said.

Paying for the system will be a major issue, but because consumers, airlines and airports, and the government all have a vested interest in getting the aviation industry back on its feet, funding should come from all three areas, Dullum said.

And although the size and scope of the system are immense, it is not unprecedented, according to the Nov. 5 testimony of Jeff Planton, senior vice president of EDS Federal, before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee's Aviation Subcommittee.

"While integration of such disparate databases and complex technologies on a global scale might be new to airports and the airline industry, [providers, including EDS] have experience creating and running comparable systems in other industries," Planton said, noting that Israel's Ben Gurion Airport uses a biometric system to expedite check-in for thousands of passengers every day.

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