Over 4,000 workers at the Port of Halifax in Nova Scotia are lending a hand to significantly improve security at the Canadian port.
Beginning as early as the end of November, port workers will be authenticated for entry and exit at some 2,200 access points around the port, using biometric-based hand vascular pattern recognition technology from security access provider Identica Canada Corp.
The technology rollout is part of a $20-million technology infrastructure upgrade that the Port of Halifax is currently undergoing to modernize and enhance security at the terminals, according to Gord Helm, manager of marine security and cruise operations at the Halifax Port Authority.
The type of biometric that will be used for the project was an important factor from the very beginning, Helm says.
“For our purposes, the environment that we’re working in, the temperature and the weather parameters that we are dealing with, plus the stakeholders that we’re dealing with, iris scanning and fingerprint (biometric) weren’t really an option,” he says.
One of the main concerns about iris scanning and fingerprinting raised by port workers was the intrusiveness and perceived privacy implications of the technology, says Helm.
“We have challenged industry back a year ago to come up with a comparison study on vascular scan versus hand geometry because through consultation with labour, it was determined that those were the least intrusive and least problematic forms and also provided a high degree of efficiency and effectiveness,” Helm says.
The port eventually decided to go with vascular scanning technology, which not only satisfied labour and stakeholder concerns, but also required less network accommodation than the other biometric solutions. “Our (hand vascular) template is 280 bytes fully encrypted. It’s a very, very small template so it really doesn’t have an issue with congestion on the network,” Helm says.
All in the hands Identica’s hand vascular pattern recognition technology involves a person presenting the back of his hand to a biometric reader, which in turn identifies the person by matching the vascular patterns to a pre-created template. The template is generated upon enrolment of an employee to the security access control system.
In the case of the Port of Halifax, the template is stored in a smartcard issued to the employee who owns that biometric template. When the employee presents himself to an access point, he would present both his smartcard and the back of his hand to the biometric reader for authentication. The reader then matches the actual hand to the template stored on the card.
The Port of Halifax covers over 240 acres of land that serves as a docking point for many international seafaring cargo vessels and a gateway to Atlantic Canada and the U.S. northeast.
As one of the largest sea ports in North America, the Halifax port has a mandate to move into “creating a very believable security envelope” around its vast property, says Bob Binns, president of Unisys Canada.