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2006: “ePassports” will lead way for biometrics

News Release

Unisys Predicts 2006 Security Trends: “ePassports” will lead the way to greater biometric adoption

Airport security requirements have dramatically accelerated improvements in, and the adoption of, biometric technology.

Biometric technology has long been used to confirm individuals’ identities and now it is being used to protect our lives and property. The need to verify identities to protect the travelling public, and to provide countries with surety as to whom is entering their borders, has accelerated the adoption of biometric technology. Improvements are multiplying the situations in which biometrics are being used, while ongoing research is improving their accuracy.

Unisys experts made the following biometric technology predictions for the coming year:
1. Worldwide adoption of ePassports (passports with contactless chips containing biometric image information about their holder) will drive the adoption of biometrics in other applications
2. 3D facial recognition will allow more flexible use of biometrics

“Traveller security has driven the adoption of biometrics faster than commercial pressures would have,” says Terry Hartmann, Director and Global Solution Lead, Secure Identification and Biometrics, Unisys. “However, now that the concept has been proven in a public context it will pave the way for adoption of biometrics by the commercial sector.”

1. Worldwide adoption of ePassports will drive the adoption of biometrics in other applications

In October 2005 Australia introduced one of the world’s first biometrically enabled ePassports, paving the way for more secure travel and a smoother transition through airport customs. Driven by its own identity verification and fraud protection program, and by the events of 11 September 2001, the Australian Government has led in the adoption of biometric technology, in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) initiatives. Unisys experts believe that, with the natural process of technology accelerated to meet a necessary and immediate need, the same technology will be adopted and used by other organisations.

There are innumerable spin-offs, including at airports. “The challenge for airports is not only how to capture information but how best to use it,” says Mr Hartmann. “This will affect how airports are laid out, especially as aircraft get larger, necessitating the processing of a greater number of passengers through check-in, immigration, customs, etc.”

As facial recognition technology continues to become more ubiquitous, it will flow on to how people move through controlled spaces where security is paramount. Once verified, triggers to confirm identity could be stored on your boarding pass ensuring the person who checks in is also the person who boards the plane and collects their bags at their final destination. Boarding pass triggers could also be used to achieve helpful tasks such as locating a flight-delaying passenger who is doing last minute shopping in Duty Free.

“Biometrics and ePassport technology represents a leap forward in identity verification and security, providing a much stronger link between the individual and his or her identity than traditional systems, which rely solely on visual identification,” says Mr Hartmann. “We will see greater take up of the technology elsewhere. Government departments that need to verify identity, such as drivers’ licences and welfare, will also consider the technology initially, after which the private sector will be prompted to investigate how it can solve existing problems, such as building access control, via the use of biometrics.”

2. 3D facial recognition will allow more flexible use of biometrics

Unisys is a world leader in biometric-enabled security: a point underscored by its announcement that it has successfully piloted three-dimensional facial recognition technology in conjunction with the Singapore Immigration & Checkpoints Authority.

The extra dimension overcomes many of the limitations of two dimensional face recognition without altering the requirements currently in place for ePassports. 3D can be used in far more situations and conditions and with greater accuracy, making it very appealing for use in airports, as well as other locations where confirming or detecting identity is important.

“The human face isn’t flat, yet current facial recognition technology measures distances between points on a flat image, which is fine when a person is looking directly at a camera,” says Mr Hartmann. “As 3D doesn’t rely on the perfect, front-on, well-lit image it can be used to capture images of the distracted person standing at an Immigration primary line and by converting it to 2D, still be compared with the 2D photo stored in an ePassport.”

3D works by projecting invisible, near-infrared light on to the face which reflects it back, for capture and analysis. In a border control situation the flat 2D image stored in an ePassport is manipulated using ‘morphing’ technology to represent what the face would look like in 3D, or conversely the 3D image is normalised, morphed and converted to a 2D representation. The use of morphing software means that the image stored in the passport doesn’t need to be 3D ensuring no change to the existing 2D image stored on the ICAO standard ePassport microchip.

“The adoption of 3D facial recognition at airports is the perfect place to trial this technology, as it has the ability not only to help passengers smooth their way through check-in and immigration but also to improve security. It allows authorities to check identities against criminal or terrorist suspect watch lists which may well have imperfectly captured 2D images on them.”

“This dramatically improves the options where biometric technology can be used to confirm identities positively – you can verify identity in 2D-2D and have the added confirmation of a 3D-2D check.”


About Unisys Asia Pacific
Unisys offers clients solutions for secure business operations by aligning technology with business strategy. Drawing on a history of industry innovation and expertise, Unisys provides specialised services, delivered by trusted consultants. In Asia Pacific, Unisys delivers services and solutions through subsidiaries in Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand and through distributors or resellers in other countries in the region. For more information, visit

About Unisys
Unisys is a worldwide technology services and solutions company. Our consultants apply Unisys expertise in consulting, systems integration, outsourcing, infrastructure, and server technology to help our clients achieve secure business operations. We build more secure organizations by creating visibility into clients’ business operations. Using Unisys 3D Visible Enterprise, we make visible the impact of their decisions—ahead of investments, opportunities and risks. For more information, visit

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