Pentagon works out iris scans

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"The eyes have it"

More than 350 members of the Pentagon Athletic Center no longer need to carry their ID cards to access the facility. All they need are their eyeballs.

The Defense Department's Biometrics Management Office (BMO) this week announced that it had reached the final phase of the biometric access pilot project, which uses an iris-scanning device to verify the identity of Pentagon Athletic Center members.

The office launched the project in June 2002 with a phased approach. At first, the iris-scanning device was used in conjunction with pre-existing ID cards, but now members can enter using the devices that are located at the outside guard post and at the turnstile entrance to the center, said Linda Dean, director of the office.

"This project is a major step toward achieving the BMO's vision of a DOD-wide enterprise solution, which when fully implemented will allow authorized personnel to access DOD facilities and information networks around the globe without the use of PINs and passwords," Dean said in a statement.

The facility is using Iridian Technologies Inc.'s IrisAccess 2200 devices, which can detect an individual approaching the imager. Once the person's eye is 3 inches 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 company officials.

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 instantly.

The iris-scanning pilot at the athletic center served to provide exposure to, and instill confidence in, biometrics technology to senior staff members within the Pentagon, according to BMO officials. It was chosen because of its proximity to the Pentagon and because its members are already accustomed to security checkpoints.

Members can still use their ID cards if they choose to do so, Dean said.

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