Sunday, 28 June 2015

Bio - metrics : machine v man in an airport queue

Arriving at Manchester Airport recently to re - enter England / United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland / European Union I was faced with the option of the two queues for passport control  - EU or Non EU

My passport looks like this and so I do know that I am classed as EU (despite having 2 conversations in the streets in Istanbul about what type of money do the British use here. It seems that many non EU citizens believe that we use the Euro ) 
I have travelled within the EU using this newly issued passport, but had not taken much notice of the symbol of the bio metric facility on it (despite being informed by my daughter and fellow travellers last year)     ePassport gates are automated, where a passport reader and camera, rather than a border officer - in theory -  verifies your identity and checks your ‘chipped’ passport. To use the ePassport gates, you must have a ‘chipped’ biometric UK, EU, EEA or Swiss passport. These ePassports have the biometric logo on the front cover.

Seeing that the e-gates queue appeared longer than the other queue, I duly took my place in line to shuffle back and forth between the queue poles 
 strategically placed to ensure that we all walk the longest possible distance over the relatively small area of floor space.

"To help speed up your time at passport control, there are now ePassport gates at all major airports in the UK.
The gates use facial recognition technology to compare your face to the photograph recorded on the ‘chip’ in your passport. Once the check is made successfully, the gate opens automatically for you to walk through ", says the official information at HM Passport Office  

I took the opportunity to scrutinise the procedure of the e- gate during the 45 minutes it took 'my' queue to move along.

It seemed initially that yes, the e queue was moving most quickly. It did not operate solely without officers though, and one in particular spent his time marching up and down telling people to please watch the videos while queueing on how to use the facilities, enabling faster and easier processing. By my calculations the processing took about 4/5 minutes per person with around 1 in 5 people being sent to an officer at another desk when their details or whatever were not compliant with the bio metric information. If I was a mathematician, which it's  well known that I'm not, I could provide the stats on this to show which queue was indeed the most efficient. But my gut feeling tells me that the man behind the desk is more efficient and certainly more 'people friendly', though that is obviously not the intention of the technology.

In information technology, biometrics refers to technologies that measure and analyze human body characteristics, such as DNA, fingerprints, eye retinas and irises, voice patterns, facial patterns and hand measurements, for authentication purposes.


The several types of biometric identification schemes include :

face: the analysis of facial characteristics
fingerprint: the analysis of an individual's unique fingerprints
hand geometry: the analysis of the shape of the hand and the length of the fingers
retina: the analysis of the capillary vessels located at the back of the eye
iris: the analysis of the colored ring that surrounds the eye's pupil
signature: the analysis of the way a person signs his name.
vein: the analysis of pattern of veins in the back if the hand and the wrist
voice: the analysis of the tone, pitch, cadence and frequency of a person's voice.

Many believe that biometrics will play a critical role in future computers, and especially in electronic commerce. Personal computers of the future might include a fingerprint scanner where you could place your index finger. The computer would analyze your fingerprint to determine who you are and, based on your identity, authorize you different levels of access Access levels could include the ability to use credit card information to make electronic purchases (Some of these, if not all are no doubt in operation now)

I'm all for advancement in technology for the amazing benefits that it bring to us as humans. As long as the benefits really are for mankind and not for power and surveillance reasons only. The time for the chip in our forehead which takes away the need for any card, cash or even social communication as we have known it is becoming ever closer. 
Who knows whether this is advancement or not ?