Britain takes a biometric approach to nightclub violence

Published 6 November 2006

Drinkers in the town of Yeovil must submit their prints to a cental database; if found to misbehave, the system alerts other establishments and prevents entry; bar owners must comply or risk their liquor licenses; we look back at a similar scheme in New York

It is often said that the United Kingdom leads the world in big-brotherism, what with its surveillance cameras following citizens from the shopping mall to soccer putch without surfeit. No doubt, Rue Brittania has been surplannted by Spy Brittania, and there are good reasons to be nervous about these developments. Yet sometimes one does not know whether to laugh or cry at how far gone things seem to be going. Take, for instance, the news that the British government is financing a pilot program to keep a fingerprint biometric watchlist of unruly bar patrons, of which Britain has more than its fair share.

Stopping violence is the main objective here. Those who wish to drink in the town of Yeovil, where a pliot program is now underway, must submit their fingerprints to a local data base. Should they misbehave in the future, they will quickly find that they have been banned from all the bars in the town, preventing the problem of migrating troublemakers. Bar owners must comply by installing fingerprint readers (supplied by CreativeCode) at pain of their liquor license, and though at first upset, the £1.50 a day cost is insignificant compared to the physical damage a violent drunk can cause.

If this sounds familiar, its because CreativeCode is not the first to develop a biometric scheme to prevent alcohol-related violence. Earlier this year we reported on College Point, New York-based JAD Communications and Security’s BioBouncer. That system uses video analytics rather than fingerprints to keep banned patrons banned. Standing guard by a club’s entrance, BioBouncer’s cameras take photographs while a human bouncer checks IDs, pats down pockets, and collects cover charges. The saved images are to be shared with other clubs using the device. If a patron misbehaves at the club and the club owner wants to ban him from future visits, that patron’s photo in the data base will be coded in a certain way. If he shows up at the door in a week or so, the BioBouncer, matching his face against the stored data base, will alert the human bouncer to the fact that the person is unwelcome at the club.

-read more in Mark Ballard’s Register report