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RFID and Fingerprint Scanner Team Up for Olympic Security

Hundreds of athletes, coaches and media representatives are sporting passive high-frequency RFID cards used to screen visitors to the German House.
By Beth Bacheldor
Aug 20, 2008Every two years, Deutsche Sport-Marketing, the marketing and management agency for Germany's Olympic teams, sets up what's called the Deutsches Haus (German House), the meeting point that also serves as the "temporary embassy" of the German Olympic family. For the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, visitors to the German House need a special ID card that combines RFID, biometric and other technologies.

More than 400 German athletes and hundreds of coaches, officials, guests and media representatives are sporting RFID-enabled cards that are part of a security system designed and built by Bundesdruckerei (BDR), a Berlin-based provider of passport and ID-card systems, ID documents, high-security cards, document-checking devices and security software. The ID cards contain passive 13.56 MHz high-frequency RFID inlays that comply with the ISO 14443 standard. Fixed RFID readers have been set up at three gates with turnstiles at the main entrance to the German House, according to BDR spokesperson Iris Köpke, and four mobile readers stand in the ready for times when long lines of people wait to enter the facility.

When issuing a card, the system scans the fingerprint of a person's left index finger, which is then stored in the back-end database.
Each card has visual data printed on it, such as the cardholder's photograph and name and the dates that person is authorized to enter, says Köpke. The card also has a bistable display, which can retain an image without power, to indicate the cardholder's membership in a predefined group—for example, the German Olympic Sports Federation. Encoded on the RFID inlay is a unique identification (UID) number that has been associated with that cardholder in a back-end database. The cards are small enough to fit into wallets, purses or even pants pockets. "However, most visitors wear the card in a plastic pouch hung around their neck," says Köpke.

When issuing a card, the system scans the fingerprint of a person's left index finger, which is then stored in the back-end database. The fingerprint is not stored in the card's chip, so "that no sensitive data are lost if a guest loses his or her card," says Köpke. The gates at the turnstiles, and the mobile readers, all include fingerprint scanners.

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