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Anti-terrorist technology scans faces on crowded train platform

dpa | October 31 2006

Hamburg - Railway authorities in Germany are conducting tests of revolutionary biometric facial recognition software that enables computers to pick out the faces of suspected terrorists in a crowd.

The new software, being tested by Deutsche Bahn AG, will make it easier to distinguish terrorists from commuters, it is hoped.

'We're a couple of weeks into a pilot project that is testing technology designed to automatically detect terrorists or other criminals entering trains and alert security personnel,' Jens Puls, director of corporate security at Deutsche Bahn, announced at the Systems IT trade show in Munich.

The project comes on the heels of foiled attempts to bomb two German regional trains in July, Puls pointed out.

German investigators have meanwhile learned that the terrorists had planned to bomb trains during the World Cup soccer tournament in Germany earlier this year, but decided to wait because of the country's tight security measures during the games.

In the Deutsche Bahn test in Mainz, special cameras scan the train station in search of 200 people who have volunteered to have their pictures stored in a database and features detected by special biometric facial recognition software.

The technology could help Deutsche Bahn pinpoint suspected terrorists among the 1.8 million passengers travelling by train every day and take action, according to Puls.

On the biometric front, Germany is active in other areas, too.

In November 2005, the country introduced a new biometric passport, valid for 10 years, which includes an embedded RFID (radio frequency identification) chip.

Initially, the chip will store a digital photo of the passport holder's face. Beginning in 2007, the holder's left and right index fingerprints will also be stored on the chip.

In a future step, slated for 2008, additional biometric data is to be added, including iris and some genetic information.

Germany is the largest market for biometric products, according to the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkom). The country had sales of 100 million euros (125 million dollars) in 2005, which are expected to grow 25 per cent annually through 2010.

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