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Raytheon Unveils ID Card, Fortifying RFID With Biometrics

The company believes its PAD card, which incorporates a fingerprint scanner for authentication, is well suited for use for the RFID-enabled passport card proposed by the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and State.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Thus far, Raytheon has mocked up the PAD into a small number of prototypes. Swope notes that his firm has built some flexibility into the final design, enabling end users to deploy the PAD card slightly differently if they preferred. For example, the on/off switch powering the fingerprint scanner could also act as a means of making the tag inside the card unreadable when unpressed. It would do this by acting as a switch that disconnects the tag's antenna from the chip unless the switch is pressed.

The PAD contains a memory chip on which the traveler's thumbprint scan is saved at the time of issuance. Also embedded in the PAD are red and green LEDs for indicating whether the scans match.

Swope says that the PAD card would fill in some holes in the current passport card proposal. For example, the proposal does not call for a biometric authentication tool. Thus, Swope says, "[border patrol] will know that the card has left the country, but not the person." By combining RFID and biometrics, he adds, the PAD can ensure both.

According to Swope, Raytheon envisions the border patrol using the PAD card to authenticate travelers on foot or by vehicle (air travel across U.S. borders requires the use of a passport). Travelers crossing a border on foot would stop at a prescreening station prior to approaching a border patrol agent. A traveler would hold the PAD in front of an RFID interrogator at the station and activate it by placing a thumb on the scanner and pressing the on/off switch. If the traveler's thumbprint matched the one saved in the PAD's memory, a green light would flash on the card's face. If it didn't match, a red light would flash.

In either case, the positive or negative result, plus the PAD's unique ID number, would be captured by the RFID interrogator and transmitted to back-end software, then sent to the border agent's computer terminal. When the traveler reached the agent, he or should would do a secondary, visual check of the traveler if the result registered a match. If it failed to match, the traveler would go to another area for secondary screening.

The scenario for use at a vehicle crossing would be much the same, except that the vehicle passengers would use the PAD to scan their thumbs while driving through an RFID-enabled portal leading up to a border patrol agent's gate. Swope says Raytheon has confirmed that the portal can read the card number and thumbprint scan from a vehicle moving as fast as 60 miles per hour. The vehicle would then have to stop at a border patrol gate so an agent could make a secondary visual check or direct the vehicle for secondary screening, if needed.

Raytheon has a large number of contracts with the U.S. government, and Swope says the company has been in discussions with DHS representatives regarding the use of PAD for the PASS card and other applications. However, he will not provide details outside of saying that the discussions are "going well." He also declines to name the manufacturer of the PAD card's tag. Outside of government applications, he says, the PAD card could be used in the private sector for building security.

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