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Airport Monitoring System Combines RFID With Video

A European consortium is designing a system involving video cameras and battery-powered RFID tags to improve airport efficiency, security and passenger flow.
By Rhea Wessel
Sep 18, 2006A consortium of European companies and a university is developing a system to track travelers inside airports. The system is intended to increase security and safety, and to speed boarding times. Called Optag, it would employ panoramic cameras and active 5.8 GHz RFID transponders with a 10- to 20-meter read range. Tags would likely be attached to passengers' tickets and read by interrogators placed throughout the airport's checked-passenger waiting areas. The system could track passengers with an accuracy of 1 meter and update location data once per second, based on passengers' movements, its designers say.

Optag would work by integrating data from the RFID system with images from the digital panoramic camera system. The camera system would overlay tag locations onto images.


Paul Brennan
"Think of it as a network of panoramic Web cams inside an airport," says Paul Brennan, an associate professor working on the project at University College of London's (UCL) Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.

The project is being funded by the European Union. Partners include U.K.-based Innovision Research & Technology, an auto-ID specialist that is developing the tags and would bring the solution to market; Debrecen Airport, an airport on the border between Hungary and Russia that will test the solution by the end of the year; Longdin & Browning, a U.K. surveyor that will position the system for the trial and work with UCL's Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering and Geomatic Engineering to develop the camera system and software; and Photonic Science, a U.K. company that is supplying high-resolution cameras.

Innovision and UCL are developing the tags from scratch. The tags will need to send long-range signals, be interrogated rapidly, be deployed in mass within a small area and be cheap and reusable, says Brennan. "It's partly a research project, and we want to have control of it," he says.

It is unclear whether tags will be attached to tickets or given to passengers to clip on like a credit-card-sized ID badge. Tags could even be worn around passengers' necks, or built into wristbands, though Brennan thinks passengers might find these types more intrusive. If an airport chose a system based on disposable tags, the tags would include a small and cheap button-cell battery. If tags were to be reusable, they would include rechargeable batteries.

USER COMMENTS

Jonathan Turner 2006-09-18 04:58:49 AM
RFID/Video airport surveillance trial Your article states that this is being trialled in Debrecen Airport, on the border between Hungary and Russia. Debrecen is not on the Hungarian border and Hungary does not have a border with Russia.

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