Home / Tech News / Princeton Identity debuts a new walkthrough biometric scanner — in a shipping container

Princeton Identity debuts a new walkthrough biometric scanner — in a shipping container


Soon, you might be walking across the border through a shipping container.

Yes, you read that right.

You’re off the flight, seven hours later, exhausted and hungry, and cranky from being hurtled at your destination at more than half the speed of sound. You grab your bag from overhead, stumble through the bright lights of the airport towards customs and then — suddenly — you’re funneled through a 20-foot shipping container that’s packed to the rafters with biometric gadgetry.

That’s the latest vision from Princeton Identity, a New Jersey-based startup, which will this week lift the lid on its latest offering.

The container — dubbed the Biometric Conex — can work almost anywhere — from government buildings and border control to large events that require personnel checks to prevent improper access or perimeter breaches.

The Conex takes several of the company’s existing biometric technologies and integrates it into a self-contained air-conditioned unit that can process as many as 20 people per minute. You enter the container at one end and, in a normal walking pace, pass through the container as you have your biometrics scanned — your fingerprints, then your face and irises — and out of the other side. By fusing together the three sets of data, the system claims a near-perfect level of accuracy to prevent identity spoofing.

No stopping, no standing, and no waiting around.

Princeton Identity’s specializes in biometrics in motion, authenticating people while they move. “That helps speed up the process by cutting down on queueing,” said Steve Clifton, the company’s chief executive, told TechCrunch.

Assuming you’re not flagged as on a watchlist and tackled to the ground by security guards, the process is quick and non-invasive to the average person.

Clifton said the container is operational in less than a day. As it’s smaller than the average shipping container, it can fit on the back of a heavy duty truck. It can be deployed almost anywhere — power can be drawn from a generator and a connection drawn from the cell networks. And, the company’s technologies are compatible with government databases, making it easy to integrate the technology wherever it’s needed. In other cases, anyone who requires authentication can be enrolled in less than a minute.

Each unit costs about $280,000, he said.

To some, biometric authentication makes life easy — replacing passwords that can be shared, lost or stolen. To others, it sparks worry. Governments and airports are increasingly relying on biometrics to speed up immigration, border and pre-flight security. But what happens when the data is lost or stolen? You can’t just get new fingerprints — or eyeballs for that matter.

“Credentials get copied,” Clifton said. “There’s a lot of fraud.” Passwords can be written down, and driving licenses and passports can be cloned. “Biometrics will rise as the way you become authenticated.” Not wanting to see anyone’s data get exposed, the company took an approach of storing each set of biometrics as a scrambled record that’s readable by its technology but not to anybody else.

“We don’t store the images — we store the template, the digital representation,” he said. “It may mean you re-enroll, but you haven’t lost your data.” Though, Clifton said that its customers who buy its technology can choose to store data as a raw image, like governments. And, in most cases, he said, data is encrypted and stored locally on the devices — and not by the company.

“We’re just devices that sit inside their firewall,” he said. “We don’t control the data — they do.”

So far the company has deployed its technologies at Dubai International Airport to help passengers process through the terminal — with more partnerships set to be announced in the near future.

As convenient as biometrics are, the more they’re used, the greater the data collection — and the risk that data could get lost or stolen. But Princeton Identity’s effort to minimize the data it collects is a mature take, but whether others heed that approach remains to be seen.



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