- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2000

An area developer of biometric security systems received a key patent last week that could eventually lead to a more futuristic trip through the world's airports.
McLean-based EyeTicket Corporation, which develops iris-recognition security systems for use in airports and sporting events, announced the receipt of a patent covering their system and method of aircraft passenger check-in.
The system, dubbed the Eye-Ticket solution, is directed primarily at frequent fliers and is designed to provide instant check-in, automated baggage check and boarding by digitally photographing a person's eye. Credit cards or personal identification are unnecessary.
The patent, expected to be the first of several granted to Eye-Ticket, is the first big step by the company to capitalize on the $1.5 billion world travel industry.
"Obviously, we're very excited," said EyeTicket Chairman Stewart Mann. "It solidifies our position to a great extent in developing applications for biometrics."
The idea behind iris-recognition technology is that no two irises are exactly alike. In fact, they are the most distinct part of the human body and never change over time. The system works by taking a picture of the eye with a digital camera and saving an image of the iris. The whole process takes less than two seconds.
The patent on iris-scanning technology is held by the New Jersey-based IriScan. The patent received by EyeTicket last week covers its own method of ticketing and check-in involving airport passengers.
EyeTicket's eventual business plan includes using iris-recognition technology for hotel check-ins, car rentals and admission to sporting events.
The receipt of the patent means continued good news for EyeTicket, which began a pilot program with US Airways in North Carolina at Charlotte-Douglas airport in July. The program there involved EyePass, an iris-recognition product used for pilots, flight attendants and other US Airways employees. Mr. Mann said more than 5,000 people have signed up for the program, and that the system has been used between 75,000 and 100,000 times without an error.
The success of the pilot program, coupled with the patent, may mean the EyeTicket will make an announcement regarding passenger usage within the next few weeks, Mr. Mann said.
"We've operated with no false accepts, 100 percent user acceptance and 100 percent accuracy," Mr. Mann said.
Mr. Mann said the EyePass system helps to improve airline security for two main reasons: proper identification is virtually guaranteed and no one can follow another person, or "piggyback," through a security portal due its small size. The EyeTicket solution is expected to be designed similarly.
"This is a program the FAA certainly has a lot of interest in," Mr. Mann said. "We make sure of the identity of the individual."
EyeTicket executives said they were pleased to see their products being used in Sydney, Australia, for the Olympics. EyeTicket portals are in place in the German Hause area in the Olympic village, supplying security for all of the German athletes, journalists and officials, as part of a promotion with a German bank and marketing firm.
A presence at the Olympics ties in nicely with EyeTicket's plans, which include creating admission portals at sporting events.
"[The Olympics] are certainly very important to us," Mr. Mann said. "It's opening up more opportunities for us."
The 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City are also in EyeTicket's plans. The company has already partnered with SkiData, which controls 80 percent of all event admissions in Europe. Mr. Mann agreed that universal use of EyeTicket technology is not likely, as fear of new technology is a concern for some people. He said EyeTicket will never be mandatory for those who wish to check in the old-fashioned way.
"We still have people who won't use an ATM," Mr. Mann said. "But the level of comfort [with EyeTicket] is very high."
Nevertheless, some privacy groups have pointed out that the information gathered by biometric devices is not regulated, and no laws exist preventing dissemination without permission. Mr. Mann said information stored about passengers is only accessible by scanning the iris.
"It requires the cooperation of the user to come back and be identified," he said. "What we really do is enhance privacy."
EyeTicket's products follow an increase in biometric security measures at airports and other locations across the country. At Chicago's O'Hare airport, many passengers go through a fingerprint-scanning device and since 1994 the Immigration and Naturalization Service has employed a hand-geometry scanner.
A pilot program of the EyeTicket solution is set to begin in October at the Frankfurt Airport in Germany.

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