When Congress created the Transportation Security Administration last November, legislators all but broadcast a call for new security technology. Heeding that call, four A-list vendors are pushing an integrated package of products and services intended to scrutinize passengers as strictly as their luggage.
EDS, Oracle, PwC Consulting (a division of PricewaterhouseCoopers), and Sun Microsystems say they can deliver a biometric-based security package that verifies passenger and employee identities. It's modeled on security systems that EDS deployed four years ago at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel.
The group is talking up two new services: Known Traveler, a voluntary passenger-registration program that would let governments establish the identity of and threat posed by registered travelers; and Secure Employee, an employee-registration and-authentication program. Additional services will target transportation on land and sea.
The agency already is paying PwC Consulting $3.1 million to study security improvements at 15 of the nation's airports.
Known Traveler and Secure Employee would use smart cards and iris scans to cross-check identities with law-enforcement databases. Use of this automated technology is intended to promote peace of mind and shorter lines.
Cutting travel delays and other friction is no small part of these projects. The more difficult it is for people to fly, the less they will, says Penny Pearlman, an analyst with Washington business-travel consulting firm Caldwell Associates. Says Pearlman, "Companies are behind the development of more-efficient security, because it means their employees won't be sitting around airports being unproductive."