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Friday, May 14, 1999

Laredo Morning Times

PAGE 7A

LOCAL

Texas bank is first to use eye scanner in ATM

BY TERRI LANGFORD Associated Press Writer

HOUSTON — If you can’t tell identical twins Michael and Richard Swartz apart, do what Bank United of Texas does: Look them in the eye.

On Thursday, Bank United became the first in the United States to offer iris recognition technology at automatic teller machines, providing the Swartzes and other customers in three Texas cities a cardless, password-free way to get their money.

Relying on 266 unique characteristics found in a person’s iris, a Bank United ATM camera “reads” or scans a customer’s right eye and determines if the person requesting a transaction is the account hold-

er. By comparison, a fingerprint carries about 35 measureable characteristics.

“It knows you just by looking at you,” said Ron Coben, Bank United’s executive vice president. “There’s no card to show, there’s no fingers to ink, no customer inconvenience or discomfort. It’s just a photograph of a Bank United customer’s eyes.”

To demonstrate the technology for reporters, Richard Swartz, a 25-year-old Rice University grad- uate student, had his iris photographed by a bank employee. The image was cataloged into a data- base for later recall by the ATM camera.

Minutes later, Swartz withdrew $40 from his account — without inserting a card or first punching in an identification code.

Michael Swartz then walked up to the machine and tried to access his brother’s account. He was imme- diately denied access.

Analysts say iris identification — already used by at 11 banks outside the United States — is expected to eliminate the use of cards and passwords, not only at the cash machine but eventually in all financial transactions.

The process and software were invented a few years ago by John Daughman of Cambridge University in England. They’re marketed in this coun- try to financial institutions by Sensar Inc., of Moorestown, N.J., which holds a license to the tech- nology from IriScan of Marlton, N.J.

Bank United’s iris project is the result of a three-way

partnership with Sensar and ATM maker Diebold Inc.

Currently Bank United offers the technology in Fort Worth, Houston and Dallas, but officials hope to have more eye-scanning ATMs up and running with- in the next year.

The iris is the best part of the eye to use as an iden- tifier because there are no known diseases of the iris and surgery is not performed on the iris, officials said.

“This event clearly establishes iris identification as the emerging standard in personal electronic identfi- cation,” said Robert Van Naarden, Sensar’s vice president of marketing and customer service. “Iris identification is the most secure, robust and stable form of identification known to man.

LPD totals over 7,000 ’99 pot pounds

BY L.B. EISEN Times staff writer

Laredo police officers seized more than 7,000 pounds of marijuana since Jan. 1.

The drugs have a total street value of about $7 million, said

spokesman Thursday.

Tony

Reyes

The narcotics department is composed of just four officers and a sergeant.

The amount already exceeds last year’s total confiscation of 5,000 pounds of the green

leafy substance.

Chief

of

Police

Agustin

Dovalina III said he attributes the success of the narcotics division’s seizures to their dili- gent efforts and the high num- ber of call-ins to the Crime Stoppers hotline.

The unit has broken records every year, Dovalina said.

“They work very hard,” he added.

More than 400 people have called the hotline since the beginning of the year. This is something Reyes is thankful for, even when he is woken up at 3 a.m. by the ring of the tiny cellular phone.

“I don’t turn it off at 5 o’clock when I leave work,” he said.

The conversations are not recorded and the phone has no caller ID, Reyes said, so peo- ple should not worry that they will have to testify in court about their tips.

Most calls to Crime Stoppers are drug related and Reyes said the hotline has the highest number of drug-related calls compared to other Crime Stoppers hotlines along the U.S./Mexico border.

Another reason police think the calls to Crime Stoppers have increased is because of the cash rewards of up to $1,000 for tips leading to arrests.

“We are the highest paying company in the world,” Reyes said. “Where else can you get $1,000 for a minute of your time on the phone. And you don’t even have to sweat.”

Crime Stoppers has already paid more than $6,500 in rewards since January to peo- ple who led the police to nar- cotic smuggling locations.

The callers are composed of neighbors, friends and people with personal vendettas against smugglers, Reyes said.

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