Boston's Logan gets ID authentication technology

ITworld.com –

Logan International Airport in Boston will be the first U.S. airport to install identity authentication technology to screen passports, drivers licenses, visas and other forms of identification. However, the airport -- which figured prominently as the point of departure for the two planes that flew into the World Trade Center towers -- will be using the technology to screen documents presented by job applicants, not those presented by travellers attempting to enter or leave the country.

The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), the independent public authority that manages Logan, has contracted with Imaging Automation Inc. of Bedford, New Hampshire, to install that company's iA-thenticate platform at the airport according to a statement released by Imaging Automation Monday. IA-thenticate uses proprietary hardware and a suite of software programs to verify the authenticity of a wide range of documents including passports, drivers licenses, and visas.

In addition to capturing information off of identity papers, Imaging Automation's technology performs tests on the documents themselves to determine that they are authentic and to determine whether or not the document has been altered. Those tests include "checksum" calculations performed on selected passport fields, analysis of the document under infrared and ultraviolet light during which non-visible authenticating patterns can be verified, and a comparison of the identity holder's name and photograph against a database of known terrorists, according to Jeff Setrin, chief technology officer of Imaging Automation.

Databases of known terrorists or criminals must be updated manually on standalone workstations, but can be updated automatically on iA-thenticate workstations that are connected to a network, according to Setrin.

At Logan, iA-thenticate will not be used at security checkpoints -- which are now under control of the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) -- but will instead be used to screen new job applicants, authenticating the identity documents that each applicant must now submit as part of the application process, said Setrin.

That screening is scheduled to start sometime within the next month, according to Jose Juves, Massport's director of media relations.

But after completing a five-month pilot program at Logan's international terminal in which over 250,000 passengers were screened using iA-thenticate and a dozen or so fraudulent passports discovered, Setrin and Juves hope that the iA-thenticate technology will soon be placed at every gate and security checkpoint.

"The big thing is to work with Transportation Safety Administration to get (iA-thenticate) more widely adopted for passenger processing," said Setrin.

"We're working with Massport to introduce the technology to the TSA, but any approval must happen on the national level."

To date, neither Massport nor Imaging Automation has met with TSA officials in Washington, however. And with the notoriously slow pace of such approvals from Washington, neither Juves nor Setrin would guess as to when such meetings might occur.

"Our focus right now is to get our system set up. Get that running. Meet with local TSA folks and the Imaging Automation folks and see what we can do," said Juves, who knows of no other U.S. airport with such a system in place.

In the meantime, Juves says that Massport's investment -- approximately US$130,000 for two iA-thenticate workstations -- should be interpreted as a vote of confidence.

"This is the first system Massport has purchased since we've started pilots here at Logan. This is the first time Massport has put its money where its mouth is."

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