Biometrics - The New Era of Identification & Security in our Daily Life

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Today we all live in an interconnected world where the need for reliable identity authentication techniques has become of paramount importance. Our current methods of proving who we are with passwords, security questions, ID numbers & yes even our social security numbers, are cumbersome, slow and too many times have been stolen by hackers. The need for faster, more reliable, greater capacity methods of identification have grown exponentially over the past several years.

Looking back just 30 years ago at some of the future technology inventions that were being touted, it’s hard to imagine that we didn’t have many of the items we take for granted today. We scoffed at them and said, “Ya right, like that will ever happen.”

  • The popularity and increase in a phone we could carry around in our pocket and call anyplace in the world - Cell Phone

  • Being ability to video conference with a person on a small little table - Facetime

  • A directional map that we can use in our car or when we walk with the ability to take it anywhere - GPS

  • A watch you wear on your wrist that can give you all of your communications, directions, the ability to take and place a phone call just like Dick Tracey - Apple Watch

  • Access to any song you ever want to hear, located in a small device you put in your pocket - iTunes

There are many more you can add to this list, but you get the idea. Well now jump ahead a few years to 2023. And the next cutting edge technology is just around the corner, Biometrics. What? Biometrics is the measurement and statistical analysis of people's unique physical and behavioral characteristics. The basic premise of biometric identification is that every person can be accurately identified by his or her intrinsic physical or behavioral traits. Facial scans, fingerprints, retinal scanning, finger geometry and voice recognition are just a few aspects of biometrics.

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Many of you have a cell phone you carry around with you each day that identifies who you are and you don’t even think about it. Remember how everyone lost their mind when Apple announced that their latest iPhone would feature face recognition? Well now you use it in your everyday life.

Okay that’s all well in good, but how will biometrics affect me in my other areas of daily life. Well if you have ever flown in an airplane, you know the drill. Arrive at least two hours before your flight, for a domestic flight and three hours prior for an international flight. Then once you get to the airport go through the agonizing process of passing through the TSA inspection process before you are allowed to board your flight. Okay, I see I have your attention now as you decry, “there must be a better way.”

We are very near the future imagined by science fiction writers where we can strut past security checkpoints and board planes, without having to pull out our drivers license, military ID or passport. Then having to take out laptops, iPads, liquids from your carryon, taking off your belt, shoes, jacket and anything else TSA deems necessary. Oh the agony of it all, just to board my flight. As you are getting dressed and putting all of your gear back into your carryon, you cry out, “there must be a better way!”

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Well biometrics could be a way to make this process smoother. It has been reported that 77% of airports and 71% of airlines are planning major programs or R&D in biometric ID management over the next five years.

With the projected increase year over year of airline travel in the world, we will have to establish a method where a greater amount of passengers can be approved for travel in less time than it takes now.

Currently U.S. Customs & Border Patrol uses systems for electronic passports which stores fingerprint data, or in facial recognition systems. U.S. Customs & Border Patrol is rolling out systems at the nation’s 20 top airports. The systems are designed to verify the identities of passengers entering and exiting the country by measuring unique facial "landmarks," such as the distance between the eyes or from forehead to chin, and cross-checking that data with passport photos already on file.

The next big avenue that is being addressed will be in airport security and the airlines to help increase the speed in which passengers are approved for travel.

The next big avenue that is being addressed will be in airport security and the airlines to help increase the speed in which passengers are approved for travel.

Delta - Delta Air Lines, which has been focusing on applied technology to improve customer journeys, made announced this month that it will launch the first wholly biometric airline terminal in the U.S. later this year at Jackson/Hartsfield International Terminal (Terminal F) in Atlanta. Customers can use facial recognition as their identity from curb to gate to check in at self-service kiosks and drop off checked baggage at the counters in the lobby. The biometric ID will help passengers clear the TSA checkpoint, board their flights and also to clear U.S. Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) processing when arriving to the U.S.

Few passengers seem to object to Delta’s biometric screening system in Atlanta: Of the nearly 25,000 customers who travel through the international terminal each week, Delta says less than 2 percent opt out of facial scans choosing to rely on regular passports and boarding passes instead.

American - American is using the technology at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas, where passengers can get their face scanned instead of using their boarding pass to board the plane. For now it is only being used in Terminal D of the airport at three selected gates, and is used for international flights only, but American said that it plans to expand the technology to 75 different international boarding gates across its terminals.

Biometric boarding eliminates the need for airline gate agents to scan each passenger’s boarding pass and check each passenger’s passport. Instead, as a passenger approaches the boarding podium, photos are captured and immediately transmitted to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for verification.

If the passenger’s photo matches photos in CBP’s database, the passenger is given clearance to board the flight. If the system doesn’t find a match, the passenger is prompted to see the agent and the agent is prompted to do a manual check of the passenger’s passport and boarding pass.

United - The airline says it’s making an unspecified equity investment in Clear, a company that matches passengers against scans of their irises and fingerprints in place of traditional identification checks. Additionally, United said it’s expanding its use of Clear technology to its Newark Liberty International Airport and Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport hubs, and working to open Clear lanes at Chicago O’Hare in the months ahead.

Clear currently has a bigger footprint in Biometrics than some of its competitors. United has already introduced Clear technology in airports in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles.

Other Uses of Biometrics

Law enforcement  - Systems for criminal IDs such as fingerprint or palm print authentication systems. Facial scans in large crowded areas (these systems are currently in use around the world). Retinal scans for persons with highly classified information.

Law enforcement - Systems for criminal IDs such as fingerprint or palm print authentication systems. Facial scans in large crowded areas (these systems are currently in use around the world). Retinal scans for persons with highly classified information.

Rental Car  - Hertz has announced it will use biometrics for customer car pickups at 30 domestic airports. They indicate that a customer can drive out of one of their locations with a car after being identified in just 30 seconds.

Rental Car - Hertz has announced it will use biometrics for customer car pickups at 30 domestic airports. They indicate that a customer can drive out of one of their locations with a car after being identified in just 30 seconds.

Concerts  - Facial scans could be performed in milliseconds and fans approved for entry without waiting in lines to show their tickets. Speeding up the crowding at the gates at any concert.

Concerts - Facial scans could be performed in milliseconds and fans approved for entry without waiting in lines to show their tickets. Speeding up the crowding at the gates at any concert.

Gaining entry into a building  - Fingerprint or retinal scans could be used to gain entry to office buildings, apartments, secured areas, elevators, hotel rooms. Rather than using a passkey or card, that can be easily lost or stolen, you have your entry pass right on your body readily available for use.

Gaining entry into a building - Fingerprint or retinal scans could be used to gain entry to office buildings, apartments, secured areas, elevators, hotel rooms. Rather than using a passkey or card, that can be easily lost or stolen, you have your entry pass right on your body readily available for use.

Healthcare  - Use of fingerprint scan or a retinal scan to confirm the identity of a patient in any hospital or medical clinique. Lab testing ID. Systems such as national identity cards for ID and health insurance programs which may use fingerprints for identification.

Healthcare - Use of fingerprint scan or a retinal scan to confirm the identity of a patient in any hospital or medical clinique. Lab testing ID. Systems such as national identity cards for ID and health insurance programs which may use fingerprints for identification.

Shopping  - Rather than pulling out a credit or debit card to make your purchase, a personal piece of your biometric makeup will be used. In China, this is routinely the method used for purchases.

Shopping - Rather than pulling out a credit or debit card to make your purchase, a personal piece of your biometric makeup will be used. In China, this is routinely the method used for purchases.

Blood Banks  - When it comes to giving blood, identity is pretty important. In the past donors were issued with blue cards containing all the information required. More and more these days that crucial data is being stored digitally with donors using fingerprint or iris recognition to access their vital details.

Blood Banks - When it comes to giving blood, identity is pretty important. In the past donors were issued with blue cards containing all the information required. More and more these days that crucial data is being stored digitally with donors using fingerprint or iris recognition to access their vital details.

Schools  - Ensuring that only pupils and authorized adults gain entry to school buildings, biometric data can also used for activities such as; recording attendance, checking out library books or even paying for meals.

Schools - Ensuring that only pupils and authorized adults gain entry to school buildings, biometric data can also used for activities such as; recording attendance, checking out library books or even paying for meals.

Of course with any new technology, there are security concerns that have been raised with the widespread use of biometrics in the coming years. Personal privacy concerns; storage of all that data; where will it be stored; who has access to it.

There's also some concern in knowing that databases somewhere have your fingerprints or retinas stored. For some, letting devices record their biometrics is incredibly invasive. And considering the location of a great deal of that biometric data is unknown, being apprehensive to share yours is understandable. Remember that what you share of your information and body is completely and utterly up to you.

But make no mistake, biometrics is coming faster than we think and is happening at breakneck speed. It is currently being used throughout the world and we are not even aware of it. Facial recognition is a part of everyday life in Chinese cities, where it's used for routine purchases, and London is famously dotted with CCTV cameras. Now, New York, Chicago, and Moscow are linking CCTV cameras in their cities to facial recognition databases to help local police fight crime. Facial recognition has been introduced at Dubai airport, where travelers will be photographed by 80 cameras as they pass through a tunnel in a virtual aquarium.

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The truth is, we have no idea how biometric authentication is going to evolve in the future, all we can do is be ready to evolve our security measures, our thinking and acceptance. Biometric technology shows that it is the best security option that we have right now. It can offer the strongest security to a mired of items that touch our daily lives, and provide a significant impenetrable layer of security. In ten years biometrics will probably be a part of our everyday life and we won’t even have to think about it.

A Weekend In San Francisco-Leave Your Heart in the City by the Bay

The song lyrics end with:

My love waits there in San Francisco

Above the blue and windy sea

When I come home to you, San Francisco

Your golden sun will shine for me

One of the most beautiful and charming cities in this country has to be San Francisco. Anytime you can make time to visit this unique and culture-rich city is one you always remember. Each time I return, I always think about the Tony Bennett song, “I left my heart in San Francisco.” He was right, once you have visited this city by the bay, you will find a way to come back. So the next time you have a weekend to spare and want to have fun & see the sites, here is a good way to spend a charming & romantic weekend.

Day One

Breakfast in Sausalito

Nothing starts a day off better than a good breakfast. Across the bay from San Francisco is Sausalito, a sleepy waterside town with colorful homes stacked against the hillside like a Californian Positano. The slower pace of life in San Francisco’s smaller sister town is a nice respite from the buzz of the big city. Barrel House Tavern is a superb choice. They have a weekend brunch that is out of this world.

The restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows plus balcony seating, which allow you to gaze at San Francisco while enjoying a great classic Californian cuisine and watching the boats slowly away on the water.

Riding the Cable Cars

A hop on these iconic mode of transportation will provide you with some of the best views in the city. Visit Nob Hill, one of the San Francisco’s most expensive neighborhoods. Grace Cathedral looms over Nob Hill with its Gothic architecture and hidden backyard labyrinth.

If you want to step off the cable car and visit Huntington Park it is a quiet green space with locals going about their daily routines of dog walking and aerobic exercises.

Jump back on another cable car and glide down steep hills exploring some of the city’s historic hotels. In front of The Fairmont you can peek inside for a glimpse of the famously ornate lobby, or order a drink off the extensive adults-only drink menu at The Top of the Mark across the street at the Mark Hopkins.

Visit Lombard Street

Though it won’t take you long, a visit to Lombard Street should be on every visitor’s list. Known as the crookedest street in the world, it is another signature spot emblematic of San Francisco’s uniqueness. If you’re on foot, use the sidewalk to descend for a picture at the base, otherwise you will have a lot of cars honking at you to get out of the way.

The famously twisted Lombard Street leaves visitors surprised that cars can even make it down the hill. It is a crucial stop because this street is the type of thing you can only find in San Francisco. Take your pictures, hike up or down the super steep hill, and prepare for your next destination. This place will leave a lasting impression in your mind.

Lunch and Explore Fisherman’s Wharf

Since you have had a busy morning you need to relax and refuel with some lunch and exploring. Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf gives you the opportunity to do both. The pier is overflowing with restaurants, museums, shops, sea lions, and tons of boats. It may be smelly in some parts, but it’s so incredibly classic, you won’t even mind. There are so many restaurants to choose from, I recommend that you take your time and visit several to pursue the menus.

After lunch you can wander and enjoy the hundreds of views and people watch. There are frequent street performers and vendors that will catch your eye on every block. I recommend taking your time here, stopping wherever you want and watching the sea lions flop around. There are also countless places to pop in and shop.

Sunset at the Golden Gate

To finish a fantastic first day in San Francisco, a must see is the sunset at the Golden Gate Bridge. From Pier 39, you can take a bus if you don’t have a car. There is a bus which will take you straight to the bridge. The 47 bus connects with the 28 and the 20-minute bus ride should be optimal timing for getting there as the sun sets.

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most beautifully grand landmarks in California. Seeing it in person, you’ll realize it’s even bigger and better than you imagined. Soak up the last few minutes of daylight, and soak in the romantic views. Hugging and kissing only please.

Relaxing Nightlife

If you have any energy left or want to sooth your leg muscles with a beverage, it’s time to check out the abundant nightlife. Options for having a drink and dinner at a cool bar/restaurant in this city are almost endless, so it’s hard to go wrong no matter what neighborhood you pick.

I recommend the Cliffhouse. Near Ocean Beach and Lands End Trail, this iconic historic site located on a headland above the coastal cliffs is home to two restaurants and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Whale and sea lion spotting is quite definitely a possibility. The camera on the deck for landscape gazing is on the National Register of Historic Places. Sutro’s offers an upscale setting, while The Bistro offers a more casual experience, with burgers, sandwiches and other California favorites.

Day Two

Telegraph Hill

Start the day at one of the city’s iconic structures perched high on top of Telegraph Hill in North Beach. Coit Tower is a 210-foot tall structure that has been a distinguishing feature of the San Francisco skyline since the 1930s. Visitors can take an elevator to the open-air observation deck that offers unbeatable views of the city and surrounding area.

One of the great features of Coit Tower, along with the great views, are the Great Depression-era murals at the base that depict scenes of life in San Francisco and political commentary of the time. The highest part of Telegraph Hill’s Filbert Street leads you up a staircase flanked by lush vegetation and bohemian homes. Be on the lookout for the famous parrots that have been known to squawk at visitors.

Haight-Ashbury

At the eastern end of Golden Gate Park sits Haight-Ashbury, the counterculture neighborhood made famous by the influx of hippies during the 1960s. Yes this non-discrete intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets in San Francisco served as the hub for America’s counterculture movement beginning in the summer of 1967, known as the Summer of Love. You can recapture the spirit of the movement by picking up some vintage threads and buying a few vinyl records, state-of-the-art music back in the day, from Haight-Ashbury’s range of one-of-a-kind, independent shops.

Haight-Ashbury is the spot for vintage shopping. The numerous clothing, costume, and record stores are all odes to the period slogan of ‘flower power’ days of Haight Street. A must photograph is the colorful Victorian homes of the neighborhood and the lady with the dangling legs of Piedmont Boutique.

Refresh at Union Square

Union Square is the teeming commercial hub of the city. Many major hotels and department stores are packed into the area surrounding the actual square. Numerous upscale boutiques, restaurants, nightspots and galleries occupy the spaces tucked between the larger buildings. At the intersection of Powell and Market streets, tourists huddle to view one the city’s most unique sites, the manual cable car turnaround.

Union Square is always busy, loud, and amazing. This is a definite for practically anything you might have on your must-see list. This area contains all you want in a visit from tall buildings, restaurants, shops, events, street carts, and music. As the heart of San Francisco, the area showcases the charm and beauty this city offers. During winter they even have an area for an ice rink.

You’ll probably spend quite a bit of time here, so it might be a good idea to grab lunch in the area as well. Walk to Chinatown to enjoy some authentic and delicious Chinese food, or walk around and try one of the many restaurants surrounding the square.

Night Tour of Alcatraz

Finish your day with a night tour of Alcatraz island. Sitting on an island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was an early military fort turned maximum security prison in the mid-20th century. The island served as a lighthouse and military site before becoming a Federal prison in 1963. Alcatraz operated as a federal penitentiary for 29 years, and during that time housed prisoners who had been problems at other locations. Some of the most infamous criminals in history were housed there, and it’s claimed that no prisoner ever successfully escaped. Two of the famous inmates were Al Capone & Machine Gun Kelly.

Nowadays, tours operate to and from the island regularly, transporting visitors by ferry. The ferry also serves as a prime spot for pictures as you travel across the Bay. The Alcatraz night tour is a good way to avoid the crowds of the day while experiencing the prison in a rather spooky setting. The tour offers both individual audio guides and group guided tours. I find the Cellhouse Audio Tour particularly chilling as it tells both sides of prison life, with the voices and words of inmates and correctional officers who lived on the island. Book in advance for tickets to make sure you don’t miss this amazing tour.

There are so many great things to see and do in San Francisco. If you only have a weekend to visit this great city on the hill, you will leave with a lasting memory that the “golden sun did shine for me.” Your passion will grow longing to return for another visit. You too will have - left your heart in San Francisco.

Real ID & Its' Impact on You Boarding a Plane in 2020

Airline passenger passing through TSA with a Real ID

Airline passenger passing through TSA with a Real ID

Back in 2005 when a little known law passed by Congress on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission called the Real ID Act, would cause so many problems for travelers 15 years later. The act modifies U.S. federal law pertaining to security, authentication, and issuance procedures standards for state driver's licenses and identity documents, as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism. This new law was a response and action born out of the tragedy that the US suffered on 9/11. If it had been in place at that time, the terrorists would never have been able to pass through security and board the planes that destroyed the twin towers.

The new reality when you pass through TSA at any airport in the United States on October 1, 2020.

The new reality when you pass through TSA at any airport in the United States on October 1, 2020.

The implementation of the Real ID began in January of 2018 and beginning October 1, 2020, the Real ID Law will be enforced across the country in every state. In order to board a domestic commercial airline flight, enter a secure Federal facility (an airport is one example), military base or a nuclear power plant, everyone will need Real ID-compliant licenses or other forms of federally-acceptable identification, such as a U.S. passport. Much like a license, travelers will need to show airline personnel and TSA screeners their Real ID driver’s license or passport each time they check in, even for a domestic flight. To date all states are compliant with the parameters of the Real ID act with 4 states requesting extensions for compliance.

TSA lines are long enough now, but will get even longer if passengers don’t have Real ID

TSA lines are long enough now, but will get even longer if passengers don’t have Real ID

So with the deadline looming expect longer times in the security lines to get through TSA. The Transportation Security Administration has instituted a new policy requiring its agents who check photo IDs at airports to advise travelers without Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses that they have just 13 months to get one. Those travelers now can expect a short spiel from the TSA agent at the check-in podium, which includes explaining the rules and advising travelers on where they can get more information.

The TSA has warned that if travelers don’t comply, it could lead to even long lines confusion and extra waiting time at airports come October 2020. Signs at airports have been in place since April. Other acceptable forms of ID are a state-issued enhanced driver’s license, a valid passport or U.S. military ID. But most travelers use their state-issued driver’s license.

Example of a Real D drivers license in California. They star in upper right hand corner is the Real ID symbol.

Example of a Real D drivers license in California. They star in upper right hand corner is the Real ID symbol.

Example of Real ID drivers license in another state, same star Real ID symbol.

Example of Real ID drivers license in another state, same star Real ID symbol.

Q: What forms of ID will be acceptable to to board a domestic flight, access a Federal facility of a nuclear power plant?

A: A state issued Real ID Driver’s License, Passport, or valid military ID.

Q: What do I need to do to get a Real ID Driver’s License?

A: Make an appointment (recommended) to visit a DMV field office.

  • Provide proof of identity, such as a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, employment authorization document, permanent resident card or foreign passport with an approved form I-94.

  • Present proof of your Social Security number, such as an SSN card, W-2 or paystub with full SSN.

  • Show proof of residency in your state through documents such as a rental or lease agreement, mortgage bill, utility bill or employment, medical or school document.

  • An original or certified copy of a name change document, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree, may be required.

Any DMV is busy. As the Real ID deadline approaches, it will be even busier.

Any DMV is busy. As the Real ID deadline approaches, it will be even busier.

So with the deadline for compliance only 13 months away, don’t wait to secure a Real ID. In 2018, 778 million people boarded planes to fly domestically in the United States. It is difficult to provide an exact figure on just how many people in the US have complied with obtaining a Real ID or even know about this motion passed in 2005 that will impact them next year if they fly. You can still board an aircraft with a passport if you do not have a Real ID, but this means you have to carry it with you every time you fly.