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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jakarta airport debuts iris scanner to speed traveler

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Jakarta's busy international airport introduced an iris scanner system on Thursday aimed at business travelers willing to pay around $200 per year to avoid long immigration lines.

Under the "Saphire" program, frequent flyers register with the immigration authorities, pay the annual fee, and submit to scans of their left and right eyes, which authorities say are as individual as prints of the fingers or palm.

On arrival, users scan one eye and are cleared for entry, a process expected to take about 10 seconds.

The Indonesian-Dutch venture behind the project says the main thrust of the program was one of convenience, although they hoped that speeding through registered users would allow the authorities more time to scrutinize other travelers for possible security threats.

Australian and U.S. authorities sounded warnings this week of possible attacks on Western targets in Indonesia over the Christmas and New Year period. The country has been relatively calm lately, with no major attack since suicide bombings on the resort island of Bali in October 2005.

"The government always takes precautionary measures to ensure safe traveling within Indonesia, eventually gaining back trust from the international community," Hamid Awaludin, minister of Law and Human Rights, told an opening ceremony.

A spokesman said 550 passengers have already registered to use the service, which is offered by the Schiphol Group, an airport operator based in the Netherlands, and PT (Persero) Angkasa Pura II, Indonesia's state-owned airport managers.

The operators plan to expand to other Indonesian airports and hope to attract at least 20,000 users, mostly Indonesian nationals. A similar system in the Netherlands has 33,000 members, they said.
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