Despite a scattering of snow in London that normally brings the country to a complete halt, my return flight from Copenhagen was on time and blissfully uneventful.

Unusually, I was hoping for lengthy queues at passport control in T3. I was praying for four flights to land simultaneously and for the resulting queues to snake around the corner and past the toilets.

Why ? Because today it is finally going to happen. After, inexplicably not flying abroad for 6 months, I had finally managed to arrange my rendezvous with Iris. Tonight was the our first date.

I was a little nervous as I separated from the crowds and waltzed up to approach the Iris barrier. The lady in front of me was already having problems. She was staring blankly into a blank screen. The camera appeared to be off and certainly wasn’t scanning her face (or anything else).

An immigration official came over to help: ‘Use the lower camera’. The lady dipped her head and stared into the middle screen. Still nothing. How embarassing. Is it too late to rejoin the queue for passsport control ? The assistant said ‘No. No. Look into the bottom screen.’

This meant the lady virtually had to squat on her knees and look into a screen positioned three feet from the ground. Finally, the advanced computer system recognised her credentials (and simultaneously sent her personal details to the FBI and Mossad). Rather flustered, she got up from the carpet and proceeded through the exit barrier exclaiming ‘Well I don’t think much of that system.’

Actually, the lady had made a schoolboy error that was covered on day 2 of the Iris Certified Professional (ICP) Training course. Advanced sensors on the entry barriers electronically scan to determine the height of the incoming body mass. If you enter, swinging your bag first, then the sensors mistakenly think you are a toddler or a dwarf.

Nervously, I entered the zone with my bag behind me. Iris was great fun. You look into a screen with your own image and have to precisely align your eyes with two green dots. This sounds easy but isn’t. The computer helps you with ‘Move your head to the left’, ‘Move backwards’ and ‘Look

  • a fraction to the right. Now just stay still !’ so the whole exercise turns into a game of 3D ‘Golden Shot’.

When the system recognises your retinal scan, you are free to proceed, waving at your colleagues waiting to clear immigration and guaranteed to be the first person waiting 25 minutes at the baggage carousel. During the trial period, you get presented with a ‘I came through IRIS in 17 seconds’ or ‘IRIS thinks I am a dwarf’ badge of honour.

I completed a feedback form with a couple of enhancement requests:

‘Can the screen be upgraded to colour ?’ ‘Can the green dots be replaced with cross-hair rifle sights ?’

‘How does Iris cope with bloodshot eyes ?’

‘Can a sound effect (gun shot, hurrah, round of applause) be sounded on successful recognition ?’

‘Can the system flash red lights and sirens with ‘YOU ARE AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT’ if the individual takes more than 2 minutes ?’