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Accenture's 'Virtual Border' Project

Accenture's $10 billion contract for a border-control system hinges on emerging technology and difficult integration
The hope, however, is that US-Visit could speed the flow of goods and people in and out of the country, while increasing security. Under one scenario, regular commercial traffic from Canada and Mexico would carry RFID-enabled smart cards that would be scanned automatically at the border.

Canada Customs for the past year has used eye-scanning technology powered by software from Iridian Technologies Inc. at airports in Vancouver and Halifax. Frequent visitors can volunteer to have their eyes photographed, letting them use an automated kiosk to verify their identities and bypass customs and immigration lines. Jacqueline Dunlap, a customs manager at Vancouver International Airport, says Canada Customs chose iris scanning because the agency believes it's more accurate than fingerprint readers. Canada's frequent-traveler database is linked to numerous law-enforcement databases within the country. "If they've committed a violation, we will know about it," Dunlap says.

Digital-fingerprinting systems aren't perfect, as illustrated by the FBI's arrest last month of an Oregon attorney for involvement in the Madrid train bombings. He was freed after the FBI concluded that a computer-aided fingerprint match that led to the arrest was inaccurate. Accenture is contemplating systems that would capture eight fingerprints, as opposed to one or two, Accenture's Stange says.

Technical standards also could pose a problem. Many government agencies whose systems will need to connect with US-Visit already have begun advanced technology programs built on differing standards. However, Stange thinks the size of the US-Visit program could help bring uniform standards to some emerging technologies: "We're hopeful this will have a positive impact on those discussions."

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