Saflink and Johnson Controls to challenge VIP

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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

BELLEVUE, Wa.--Verified Identity Pass may have been the first company to offer frequent flyers a quick trip through airport security checks, in the Orlando airport, but they won't be the last. Saflink, a provider of access control and identity assurance solutions, announced in December a partnership with Johnson Controls, Microsoft, Expedia Corporate Travel, and ID Technology Partners to provide the Registered Traveler program in participating airports, beginning this summer. This will attempt to one-up Verified by not only expediting check-ins through a biometrically secured identity card registered with the Transportation Security Administration, but also adding travel-related benefits and even a credit component through JP Morgan/Chase (Visa/Mastercard), said Glenn Argenbright, Saflink's chief executive officer.
"It is a pretty big deal for us," said Argenbright. "It's a move away from some of our government lineage." Rather than offer access solutions to "unusual things," like tanks, for the Department of Defense, said Argenbright, Saflink will now enter the consumer market for the first time, pitching the company closer to the individual, and securing more "unusual things like credit cards and giving those things more features so they can do more things."
"What Johnson brings is knowledge of facilities," said Mark Duszynski, vice president of business development for Johnson Controls, which integrates security systems along with other building control systems like HVAC. Through its building efficiency segment, which accounted for about 21 percent of Johnson's revenues in fiscal 2005, "we have contracts with at least some portion of almost every airport in the country," said Duszynski. That gives Johnson Controls, and the Saflink-led team as a whole, a leg up in instituting the Registered Traveler program in turnkey fashion.
Though Argenbright emphasized his desire for airport infrastructure to be interoperable with cards issued by other security expediting companies, that doesn't mean that his team won't go after the installation contracts for the readers and any other equipment that might make Register Traveler more attractive to the consumer.
"In each of these airports," said Duszynski, "you're going to need a certain amount of equipment and training of the operators, and there are implications for the infrastructure of the airport itself. Where do you get the power, etc.? That's where Johnson Controls comes in."
Saflink chief marketing officer Tim Wudi said he's hoping for a June/July roll-out date for the program, but said it depends on the TSA making certain policy decisions. For instance, "Right now it's unclear to us and to others how we would go about enrolling people in the background checks," said Wudi. The TSA needs to decide how to accept applications, where to store the information and how to reply in the affirmative or negative about applicants to the program. Wudi said the current Verified program has largely been created as it went along, but that TSA says a large national competitive atmosphere could not be supported by the current system.
On or around January 20, after Security Systems News went to press, the TSA was set to issue standards for the cards involved in any private security enterprise, as well as the security benefits a private company could offer to their users. In April, TSA will offer an amendment to the contract that airports sign with the TSA to operate in the United States, which will control programs like Registered Traveler and what an airport needs to commit to offer them.
"We can't guarantee that the TSA will say, 'Okay, you can keep your shoes on.' We can't say they're going to do any of that," said Argenbright. But he emphasized that there will be less secondary screening, and he hopes to install other secondary technology, like full-body scanners, that will move the Registered Traveler lines along more quickly, even if the benefits allowed by the TSA aren't that extensive.
To join Registered Traveler, frequent flyers, likely those who fly at least seven times per year, will provide the TSA with personal information that will be combined with biometric information for identity assurance that will accelerate the security process at participating airports. Saflink hopes to add further incentives, such as travel discounts, and identity-theft and credit fraud protection, to the program. The program will likely require an annual fee of under $100, with pay-per-transaction an alternative should a consumer exercise the card's credit option.
Further, through a program Saflink's team is calling ASAP, it hopes to offer a similar expedited security service at other venues, like those with sporting events or concerts, in the near future.