DOD gives biometrics a workout

Biometrics Management Office

The Defense Department Biometrics Management Office (BMO) is in the middle of a three-phase "quick look" project using iris scan technology to gain access to the Pentagon Athletic Club.

The first phase involved educating the athletic club's staff about iris scan technology via a demonstration. The second phase, which began July 23, involves one month of enrolling members into Iridian Technologies Inc.'s IrisAccess 2200, said Maj. Steve Ferrell, executive officer for the Biometrics Fusion Center, the testing and evaluation facility for the BMO.

The quick-look projects involve testing and evaluating commercial, off-the-shelf biometric products for a specific DOD security access requirement. If the testing determines that the product satisfies the requirement and if resources are available, the tool can undergo more aggressive testing as a Biometrics Fusion Center pilot project. The pilot determines whether the product will be deployed at a service, agency or command.

Enrollment for the Pentagon project is voluntary and involves capturing data from the member's identification card and iris, Ferrell said.

"It takes no more than 2 minutes to enroll and verify a new user, which includes downloading the new template to the server," Ferrell said in an e-mail message. The enrollee can then gain access to the athletic club with the iris scan and a member ID card. The goal of the project is to eliminate the member ID-based system and move secure access procedures to biometric technology.

The IrisAccess system detects an individual approaching the imager. Once the person's eye is 3 to 10 inches from the mirror in the unit, a camera captures an iris image, which is digitally processed into a 512-byte IrisCode template, according to officials from the Moorestown, N.J.-based company.

A search function performs real-time database matching at the remote unit. When an iris matches a valid IrisCode template in the database, access is granted almost instantaneously. Moving from member IDs to the iris scan system will enable not only secure access to the facility for members but also "promote convenience for them since they will not have to carry anything on their person," said Linda Dean, director of the BMO, adding that it also aids the Pentagon staff in verifying the identity of people attempting to gain access.

The project has 100 enrollees with more people being enrolled daily, which is promising because the Pentagon Athletic Club has about 8,000 members, according to Ferrell.

The third phase of the quick look is scheduled to begin Aug. 30 and will involve using IrisAccess 2000 as the sole tool for access into the athletic club. The cost of the project is "restricted data," Ferrell said.

Feedback has been positive. "The members can't wait to not have to use their ID card when they are running," he said.

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