Picture yourself in an airport, somewhere in the world, sometime in the near future. Youll have a West Virginia University connection there, whether you realize it or not.

First, though, the scene:

By now, youre used to all the security. Youve cheerfully (or stoically) surrendered your shoes, watch and car keys to the march through the metal detector, and youve watched others watching the contents of your locked suitcase on the terminals X-ray machine.

Those measures were layered in after Sept. 11, but heres something new: While youre doing all that watching, the airport is watching you too. A sophisticated network of cameras and computers are digitally capturing the components that make you, well, you.

One camera maps the contours of your face while another looks you in the eye to record the patterns of your iris. Its all part of the science of biometrics, which uses geneticsignatureslike fingerprints, the above-mentioned iris scans and vocal scans as foolproof means of personal identification.

Such facial recognition measures arent 100-percent mainstream in airportsnot just yet.

But when they are, WVU s Dr. Arun Ross will be one of the researchers with his intellectual fingerprints on the technology.

Arun (sounds likeah-ROON) Ross is a researcher at the WVU -based Center for Information Technology, or CITeR, as the enterprise is known throughout the industry.

WVU is also known throughout the industry. The school is a national leader in biometrics, offering the nations first and only undergraduate degree in biometric systems, along with dual-undergrad offerings in biometric systems and computer engineering, and biometric systems in electrical engineering.

Biometrics at WVU may also be pursued as a dual graduate degree with electrical engineering, or a graduate certificate in biometrics andinformation assurancewhich protects computer hardware and software systems that store sensitive information.

Ask Ross about the enterprise, and hell tell you it isnt so much aboutBig Brother is Watching You,as it is about enhancing security in a rapidly changing world.

Ross has gone in front of CNN cameras and before the microphones of Washington Post Radio to talk about that world. Hes also served on a National Science Foundation panel addressing airport security and was an invited speaker at the recently concluded Kavli Frontiers of Science Symposium at the National Academies of Science.

Hes also the author ofHandbook for Multibiometrics,a leading primer among biometrics practitioners.

Well, the reality is that we do live in an electronically networked world,Ross said recently from his Multimodal Biometrics lab on the ground floor of WVU s bustling Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering on the Evansdale Campus.

This is a world where monetary transactions and personal communication occur surprisingly quickly in cyberspace,he said.And in this world, citizens expect higher standards of personal protection.

Which means personal identification, he said. The kind that cant be stolen, fabricated, or in the field of biometrics,spoofedthat is, trying to pass artificial traits off as real ones.

CITeRs mission is to set new standards with several research projects that Ross and his colleagues hope will bolster biometrics, from face recognition programs for video to others that make fingerprint matching even more exact and defined than it already is.

And the goal, Ross said, is the make the technology behind biometrics as unobtrusive and consumer-friendly as possible.

The idea, he said, is to create and implement computer software that can be used with off-the-shelf PCs and accessories purchased in the electronics department of any retail storeso businesses of all sizes can reap the security benefits of biometric advances.

Its not about being mastered by technology,he said.Its the other way around.

WVU wants to master a field that was once the realm of the Cold War and science fiction novels with projects that build in biometric indicatorsormultimodalsystemsthat account for everything from cuts in fingers for printing to the light on a subjects face in a recognition program; to an automated dental scanning program that can interact with a data base of missing persons.

And like that airport scenario, Ross sees a near-future society where biometric components are as common in businesses and homes as grocery bags, baby carriages and briefcases.

Look at how new that thing called the �€~Internetused to be,he said.And now passwords are so 20th century.”

CITeR is directed by WVU professors Larry Hornak and Bojan Cukic. It’s a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, and the first comprehensive academic center for biometrics in the nation.

_ WVU also houses the Biometric Knowledge Center (BKnC) spearheaded by Ms. LaRue Williams. The knowledge center works with CITeR to enhance biometric research at WVU ._