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Peter Cochrane's Uncommon Sense: Who goes there? Chip implant time
What lengths would you go to feel safe or to avoid being hassled at security checks regularly? How about managing both these things? Peter Cochrane sets out his stall...
In the past 25 years I have crossed the Atlantic hundreds of times and I have never been tempted to hijack an aircraft or take hostages. But it now seems the system always assumes I am a potential terrorist. On every single flight from now on it seems I will have to prove I have no evil intent.
It is another early Sunday morning at Heathrow Terminal 4 and in my line are a lot of high net worth individuals trying to traverse the planet, do business and create wealth. But every step of the way they are dogged by 19th Century security systems. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against security. I'm all for it but I just watched an elderly lady have her handbag searched and the security personnel removed a nail file, a pair of tweezers and a pair of scissors. The gentleman immediately in front of me had his safety razor confiscated. I just could not resist commenting it would be a pretty slow death - to be taken down a sliver at a time by a safety razor.
Since 9/11 I have progressively trimmed down my luggage to the point where I know there is nothing that will trigger electronic scanners or attract the attention of the X-ray operator. I have just two bags, one containing my laptop and the other carrying no more than three days survival of clothing. My idea of travel is to never have to check in a bag, never let go of any luggage and carry minimal clothing no matter what.
The secret is to use hotel laundry and cleaning services and, of course, for those difficult trips with nightly hops from one location to another, FedEx for dispatching clothes home and receiving clean clothes in far-flung places. But security has become the major factor in my efficiency equation.
I have just walked through unchallenged with pens and credit cards. All would make super weapons for those of malicious intent. Moreover on the flight side of security, I can purchase any number of potential weapons - a broken wine or whiskey bottle, for example. And during that in-flight meal, I am given a plastic knife and fork that are more dangerous than the mental counterparts they replaced.
Is there something more intelligent that can be done to ensure our safety and speed our passage? It seems to be a basic information problem. All the data about us is available somewhere, the problem is it isn't available at the airport. You would think a regular traveller would be accepted by security compared to the irregular passenger who suddenly turns up. We have the technology to recognise the human face, hands, fingers, body, voice, lips, and various parts of the eye including retina and iris.
Many years ago I volunteered to accept a chip implant that would replace my passport, credit, medical, loyalty and membership cards, to identify me immediately so I could pass through any form of security barrier unimpeded. At the time all manner of objections appeared in the media but it now seems to be an imperative for those in a hurry. As a regular traveller I can tell you the travel time to and from airports, plus the time to traverse security and immigration, now exceeds the time to fly one continent to another.
In priority order our ability to recognise people electronically goes like this: Implanted chips concealed inside the human body provide the highest level of security and information. This can include medical records, banking details and insurance, and travel details to be made available anywhere to those with an appropriate level of authority.
Second is iris recognition, which is far superior to any genetic or biometric test. Unfortunately the simplest, the cheapest (and the most popular) are the worst from the point of view of accuracy. Facial recognition, fingerprints, voice prints and lip prints all suffer from high rejection rates. But there is a saving grace here that is very simple to realise. Voice recognition has an error rate around 1 in 100, facial recognition is much higher at about 1 in 1,000 while fingerprints are better still at about 1 in 100,000.
If we concatenate face, finger print recognition and voice recognition the error probability or rejection rate would then only be 1 in 10 billion for a cost of less than $1,000 per terminal. Iris scanners regularly achieve figures in excess of this and are considerably better than DNA sampling.
So the technology to recognise people with great accuracy is available and, ergo, so is the technology to identify known or likely terrorists. But what is required is the network capable of providing the necessary connectivity. In this new century such a network will be essential to minimise the risk of external and internal attack.
As a regular traveller I would like to feel safe. Anyone can have any information about me and my organisation to improve security and safety. I am still ready and willing to accept the implanted chip technology that will allow me to walk into any airport anywhere and gain immediate access to the aircraft without having yet another body search.
This column was typed on my laptop on AA846 flying Miami to Raleigh-Durham and despatched to silicon.com via an on board phone.