Project to track passengers in airports

While one part of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, is considering adoption of regulations to ensure that radio frequency identification tags do not impinge on privacy, another part has funded a test that would use RFID tags to track every passenger inside an airport.

University College London, in partnership with Innovation Research and Technology of the United Kingdom, said it plans to start using RFID technology this month to track all passengers in a small Hungarian airport under its Optag project, funded by the commission’s program for aeronautics and space.

Optag, slated to start this month at Debrecen Airport in eastern Hungary, is designed to help flights take off on time by monitoring the location of passengers in the airport through the use of tags attached to their boarding passes or on wrist bands, said Paul Brennan, a professor of electrical engineering at the college’s Centre for Security and Crime Science.

The tags will feed passenger information to tag readers attached to closed-circuit surveillance cameras located throughout the airport, making it easy to locate any passengers within about 3.3 feet and alert them if they are missing at the gate at boarding time, Brennan said.

The Optag system consists of a network of ceiling- and wall-mounted units containing cameras and antennas capable of picking up signals from the tags, which have a range of 30 to 50 feet, the college said.

Brennan said he sees great potential for commercializing the Optag technology, which he also sees as an aid to airport security and safety, as well as a way to gain market intelligence from tracking passenger movement into shops and restaurants.

On Oct. 16, Viviane Reding, European commissioner for information society and media, said the EU needs to consider adoption of a legal framework that would allow its citizens to disable, deactivate or destroy RFID tags.

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