Facial Scanners Are Getting a New Look at Some Cars Entering Redstone Arsenal

by Braxton Taylor

Lafe Hutcheson is leading an experiment at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville for IDEMIA, a biometrics company that makes passports, credit cards, drivers’ licenses and other sensitive products for states and the federal government.

Redstone is where as many as 40,000 people report to work each day now that the pandemic has ended. They work for a variety of federal entities such as the Army, NASA and FBI. It’s also where traffic crunch points can pop up with growth in an area like the arsenal’s west side.

IDEMIA also makes Alabama driver’s licenses and, for the 18 million people enrolled in TSA airline flight precheck, the company does the enrolling and makes the scanner that reads your TSA card in airports.

The new goal in Huntsville is perfecting a scanning system using facial recognition that can help get arsenal employees get on base quicker and safely. A single-camera version of such technology already scans and validates drivers at Gate 9, Gate 7 and Gate 1, the main arsenal gate off Interstate 565 and at Martin Road east.

“At Gate 10, we’re testing four separate cameras all at the same time giving us the capability to vet multiple occupants in the vehicle,” Hutcheson said. “OK, what are the impacts of that? What kind of information are they going to potentially be seeing?”

“Here’s what happens when you put in a system and look at full occupancy,” Hutcheson continued of the experiment’s goals. “As we work through the different government folks and entities, is there anything they need to look at from a policy standpoint? Or tactics, techniques, procedures they may have to adjust.”

“The simple idea is everybody coming on the installation has been vetted and they have a purpose coming on the installation,” Hutcheson said of the experiment.

The cameras are programmed to grab facial images in vehicles ranging in size from a typical car to a normal pickup. A tractor trailer? The system wouldn’t capture that driver, but there’s already a different procedure for them.

Drivers approaching Gate 10 will see the cameras in square boxes mounted on stands. At a “trigger point,” they will see multiple red flashes. The system will identify all the faces it sees in the vehicle and tell the guards if each matches an I.D..

Because this is a research project, recognizing you doesn’t mean you’ll be waved in. You will still have to show and scan your I.D. card. “We’re exploring the technology,” Hutcheson said. “They are not throwing open the arsenal doors.”

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