BBC World News Horizons explores how technology is being used to protect identities and improve security

We’ve established a dense network of TB treatment centres deep in urban slums and rural areas ... Centres are established in the community itself - in temples, in shops, in people’s homes. so anyone can become a provider. All it requires is a little training and some space."Shelly Batra, President, Operation ASHA
Date: 21.11.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.59
Category: BBC World News
In the 18th episode of the Horizons series, presenters Adam Shaw and Saima Mohsin head to New Delhi, India, to look at how biometric technology is being used to generate a national identification system and in Durham, UK, find out about a scanning system that aims to be become the chief form of liquid detection in airports worldwide.

First Saima Mohsin travels to New Delhi, India, where the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an agency of the Government of India, has launched a national campaign that aims to provide everyone in the country with a unique identification code. The scheme, called AADHAAR, is an exclusive 12-digit number generated using 10 fingerprints and two iris scans of each individual.

Stored in a centralised database, UIDAI hopes that the biometric system will help India’s poor who find establishing their identity one of the biggest stumbling blocks to accessing welfare. Saima visits a homeless dweller who has used his AADHAAR ID to open a bank account and obtain health insurance. The scheme is currently enrolling one million people a day with hopes to register 600 million by 2014. As the Indian population continues to grow, the ambitious biometric system proposes a solution to helping the government and citizens move forward.

Nandan Nilekani, the chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India says: “It’s a highly scalable system because it holds the literally millions of records coming in every day, so we required very specialised high-performance software. It is very ambitious to take on something like this and at this rate we hope to do about 600 million by 2014... Think of it as an ecosystem of apps, which gets built on top of an identity platform.”

Later, Saima meets the team behind Operation ASHA, a non-government organisation that is using biometric technology to reduce the number of tuberculosis sufferers in India. Sixty per cent of all new tuberculosis cases occur in Asia, with India bearing the highest burden. With many sufferers living in the country’s urban slums and rural villages, there is constant risk of them missing a dose of their medication.

Operation ASHA uses a simple-to-operate biometric system, which uses fingerprint ID and a computer database to alert counsellors by SMS of anyone who has missed a dose. Saima catches up with some of the slum dwellers who are benefiting from this system and finds out how Operation ASHA has already established a network of TB treatment centres. It is now extending its health services beyond India’s borders to other countries of the developing world.

Shelly Batra, President Operation ASHA, says: “We’ve established a dense network of TB treatment centres deep in urban slums and rural areas. For sparsely populated areas we have mobile counsellors on motorcycles so no patient has to walk more than ten minutes or miss work in order to get the medicine. Centres are established in the community itself - in temples, in shops, in people’s homes. so anyone can become a provider. All it requires is a little training and some space.”

Next, Adam Shaw is in Durham, UK, where British company Kromek is pioneering liquid X-Ray technology. The number of air passengers globally is expected to rise to over three and a half billion by 2015, suggesting the need for smarter, more efficient, and non-obtrusive security systems to deal with the influx of travellers.

While there is currently a ban on liquid items over 100 millilitres in hand luggage on airplanes, the European Commission has agreed to relax the limit on liquids in 2014, raising new security concerns over which screening measures should be put in place. The Kromek Bottle Scanner, a desktop inspection unit that analyses and classifies liquids based on whether they are harmful or benign, has now received European Union certification to provide the detection system to airports beginning next year. It is currently the only colour x-ray imaging system that exists in the security world.

Arnab Basu, Chief Executive Officer of Kromek says: “What this X-ray is doing is almost fingerprinting the molecular structure or the chemical properties of a liquid and giving you a simple decision point where it is saying this is classed as dangerous in this environment. In another environment it might not be classed as dangerous and the machine can be tuned to that. This is the next generation of technology taking the world from black and white to colour, and what colour does is provide a better ability to discriminate between closely related materials.”

Jessica Culshaw - Jessica.Culshaw@bbc.co.uk