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Biometric firm takes off with safer air travel


In airports on both sides of the Atlantic, BioWise is taking off as a leader in the provision of multi-biometric and multi-modal identification and authentication middleware for safer air travel.

Working with SITA and UNISYS, the BioWise system is in use in the US’ large-scale registered traveller’s pilot programme for internal flights. “In return for registering,” explains André Oeyen, Managing Director of BioWise, “they will be considered as trusted travellers and will be granted some privileges, allowing them to pass faster through the airport gate.” This is only once they are accepted into the programme, and have their smartcard with their biometric details authenticated at the BioWise kiosk. During registration travellers have both their index fingers and irises scanned and stored according to International Civil Aviation Organisation recommendations for biometric information storage, and have valid forms of identification checked by the police authorities.

Initially deployed in airports in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Houston for a trial period of 90 days, after well over 120 days it is still in use by thousands of registered travellers instead of the planned hundreds. Its reported popularity among travellers make it likely that more kiosks will be rolled out next year across the 500 US airports that qualify for this kind of infrastructure, believes Oeyen.

In France, BioWise has kiosks in place in six major airports where it is being used for authenticating any kind of airport-related staff. The system incorporates different kinds of face, iris and finger print scanners used to compare the scanned traits with those stored in the database. Currently the French Civil Aviation Authority, the Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC), is certifying the technologies. According to Oeyen, after six months the DGAC will chose which ones are sufficiently robust and secure, and so can be deployed nationwide, if airports wish to invest in such an infrastructure.

BioWise, founded in 2003, was a buyout of the biometrics development team department at Keyware Technologies. With finance from BioWise’s French mother company, the Ingenica Group, this small Belgium-based company of seven brought with them the biometrics customers and projects that have given them a head start over their competitors.

According to Oeyen, being part of the IST project S-TRAVEL proved extremely beneficial. “It allowed us to show that we are credible in this new market by funding product development.” They were able to go to the US, bring the biometric kiosks they developed and say confidently they could deliver in four weeks.

“Our core activity is biometrics systems integration,” explains Oeyen. “Basically what we have is standard middleware that allows for easy integration of different technologies but also offers a very uniform interface to passengers or staff at airports.” The middleware application behind the BioWise biometrics kiosk “whether it is finger print or iris for us it does not matter, can cope with any kind of technology and that’s what you need to do today if you want to be successful in a very fast moving industry,” states Oeyen.

Oeyen believes the secret of their success is their strategic marketing partnerships. For example they were able to bid for the US pilot programme with SITA, the world’s leading provider of information and telecommunication solutions to the air transport and related industries, present in every airport in the world, and one of the S-TRAVEL partners. “SITA’s worldwide sales channel has people that spot opportunities, and they go after them together,” says Oeyen. “Many other SITA sales people are now looking in their territory for similar kinds of opportunities. We have a potential winning team here.”

"Based on this [S-TRAVEL] experience, I consider that BioWise has a significant potential to accompany the biometrics deployment wave in security systems, across all industry domains," says SITA’s Michel Saunier.

As for the future, Ingenica is confident in BioWise’s potential, allowing them to reinvest in themselves. “We have delivered everything we have promised them,” concludes Oeyen.

Tara Morris | alfa
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