Iris ID tech deployed at US-Mexico border crossing
20 January 2016 09:12 GMT

Iris biometric technology firm Iris ID has revealed its involvement in a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) project trial identifying certain non-US citizens entering and exiting the country through Mexico.

The CBP project focuses on pedestrian lanes of a busy Southern California port of entry, Otay Mesa, which is one of the busiest US-Mexico land border entries with between 8,000 and 9,000 pedestrians crossing northbound daily.

The six-month pilot is being conducted on foreigners when applying for US visas and other travel documents, and is designed to meet recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and Congressional mandates.

Six kiosks, equipped with fully-automatic Iris ID iCAM D1000 iris-face capture systems, have been installed at the border to create photo records of the iris, the colored part of the human eye, of non-US citizens. Then as they subsequently cross the border, Iris ID readers will match their irises against those on record. 

If the pilot proves successful, the automated process may be expanded to other border crossing stations. No biometric data will be requested of US citizens crossing the border in either direction. 

Charles Koo, president and chief executive officer of Iris ID, said iris-identification has proven to be more accurate than fingerprint or facial recognition technologies and can be used by people wearing glasses or contact lenses. 

“Our iCAM D1000 and its core technology, commercially available since 1997, has been deployed at border crossings worldwide and has shown exceptional performance,” he said

Iris ID has integrated its technology with Portugal-based Vision-Box to create the project’s kiosks. Pedestrians using the system stand about 30 inches away from the readers, making the process hygienically safe and non-intrusive. 

“This is not like fingerprint scans that involve physically touching a reader,” Koo said. “Nor should it be confused with retina scanning, which requires very close proximity to the camera optics. Iris recognition is simply a digital photo using very low power near invisible infrared illumination. Iris scans are more comfortable and less invasive than conventional flash photography. Also, iris-based systems are no more intrusive than facial recognition technology.”

Iris ID has been working with the US Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) for more than two years. Iris scans from the Otay Mesa project will be collected by the border patrol and stored in an OBIM database for subsequent matching. The OBIM’s iris data repository also uses Iris ID quality assessment and matching technology. 

According to the CBP, any images taken during the pilot will not be retained nor shared with any other government or private organisation.

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