Rob Hastings writes in the Independent:
At the very time long passport control queues are being blamed as the root cause of the border control scandal, most registration booths for the technology designed to eliminate such waits have been closed with no sign they are to re-open.
Iris recognition scanners have been introduced at several British airports in recent years to allow regular fliers to skip queues and reduce overcrowding at security gates. Yet despite the very public spat between Border Agency boss Brodie Clark and Home Secretary Theresa May over how and why security checks came to be watered down to ease three-hour log jams for passengers this summer, seven of the nine facilities for new applicants to sign up for the fast-track system are not open.
Three of four offices at Heathrow are closed, as are both at Manchester airport, the solitary one at Birmingham, and one of the two at Gatwick.
Officially the enrolment office at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is still taking new registrants, but it has been reported that the office there has in fact also been closed for the last four months, though the UK Border Agency denied this yesterday.
The scanners themselves remain open. Yet with users of the system being required to renew their records every two years, even the estimated 385,000 current users are threatened by the office closures, meaning the number of people being forced to wait in long queues for conventional passport security is only likely to increase.
The FT carries a similar story.
Mr Hastings reports Biometric equipment manufacturers’ view that obstruction by Borders Agency staff is causing declining use of Iris scanning, but in an interview with Frontline magazine in India, Dr Edgar Whitley advances a different theory:
If there is a sudden good sunshine, very noticeably the room is brightened up. So, you need to potentially adjust your iris-capture device to allow for those kinds of set-ups. But we know from the experience of airports that iris devices often have problems in operating at their full performance level; airports are designed by architects, and architects use lots of glass and open space, which allow for light to come in seamlessly and brighten up the space. This creates a lot of problems for iris recognition systems.