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HAVE thumb, can club.

Click to see larger image
One of Thumper's staff members showing how biometric scanning of the thumb is done.

That, really, should be the tag line for local club Thumper, which came back onto the nightlife scene with its soft launch on 7 Aug.

That's because you'll need your thumbprint to enter, leave and buy your drinks there.

Thumper has incorporated an advanced biometric identification and customer relationship management system that gives clubbers 'access to a world of cashless partying'.

You don't have to fiddle around for your wallet after your drink is served.

Just press your thumb on a sensor on the waiter's laptop and your order will be recorded for payment at the end of the night.

Thumper's management says this saves time and eliminates hassle, and the information gained from this exercise will also allow it to customise the partying experience for guests.

But some clubbers are feeling like Big Brother is watching.

Like it or not, the club will have a record of when you enter and leave its premises, how much you spend each time you visit, and what type of drinks you order.


Not really, says Mr Che Pereira, general manager of T Group, Thumper's new owners.

The old Thumper shut down in February and, after a five-month closure, is now experiencing a rebirth at the same Goodwood Park Hotel premises.

Mr Pereira said: 'The system actually enables the staff to provide better customer service.

'With access to information like the guest's most ordered (type of) drinks, last visit and birthday in the system, Thumper's management is able to show guests its appreciation, be it on their birthdays or when they have spent a certain amount in the club. All without having to ask.'


He added that the system also helps reduce human error, 'such as providing guests with the wrong bill or overcharging them'.

As for the club keeping track of patrons' whereabouts, he sees it from a safety standpoint.

'With a record of who's inside the club at any one time, it is easier to track a person in case of an emergency and this also provides guests with a safer environment to party in,' he explained.

Mr Pereira declined to reveal how much was spent on the biometrics system, but the nightspot's renovations cost about $3million.

Thumper's interior decor has completely changed, and partygoers can now expect a roomier club that is covered in lush velvet and sexy leather.

The look is accented by wood, glass and chrome fixtures.

There are three branded areas - the interior Wyborowa bar, the Mumm Champagne's VIP lounge and the al fresco Heineken bar - where the club's talented bartenders sometimes perform bar tricks.

As for privacy, Mr Pereira said customers' personal details will be carefully protected.

'Every member will be given a slip upon check-in to assure them that all their information will be kept confidential and will not be disclosed to any third parties,' he said.

Zouk on Jiak Kim Street also uses some form of biometric technology, but only for patrons who are Citibank cardholders.

The club has tied up with Citibank to offer a thumbprint-based payment system.

If a clubber chooses to use it, he can forget about bringing cash or credit cards on a night out, and he doesn't even have to sign anything.

Only the press of the thumb on a scanner is required.

Said Zouk's marketing manager Tracy Phillips: 'If customers lose their card, their signature can easily be forged - this is found on the back of the card.

'But with biometrics, nobody can steal a fingerprint. Each person's fingerprint is unique.

'Thus, security is enhanced.'

Unlike Thumper's system, however, no information is stored locally on Zouk's servers.

The customers' personal information is stored with Citibank and its trusted technology provider, under the strictest confidence.

Still, information technology practitioner and expert Aloysius Cheang feels that there's not much difference in the level of security between a biometric-only system and a credit card where some information is encoded in a magnetic strip on the card - or even a password-based system.

He said: 'This is because both are based on one-factor authentication.

'Stronger security can be obtained by combining two or all identification methods.

'For example, a combination of a security token and a password is termed as 'two-factor authentication'. This is currently used in Internet banking and it's definitely more secure.'

Some people may also find the technology too invasive, he added.

'The data obtained using biometric technology can still be used in unauthorised ways, without the individual's consent.

Clubbers we spoke to also had mixed reactions.

Miss Melissa Cheah, a 30-year-old assistant director of corporate communications, felt the biometrics system can make clubbing less fun and spontaneous.

She said: 'I have no issues with biometric systems being used for national security, like at airports and checkpoints.

'But not for clubbing. I really don't think any club is going to show me that much of a good time to warrant such requests.

'My thumbprint is a unique identifying mark, (if I give it) I might as well just give them my DNA.'

Public relations consultant Edwin Yeo, 40, takes a more practical approach.

He said: 'The system makes clubbing convenient but at the same time, the hold-up it causes when leaving the club is a pain.

'Sometimes, you just want to go off quickly but with the thumbprint system, you need to queue up before paying at the 'check-out'.'

While suggesting that the club's logistics need to be looked into, he added: 'I can see how (security) can be a concern, but I have no issues with it.

'(Thumper believes) it to be a good thing. If you don't like it, don't go.'



Armed gang targets casino

    September 10 2007 at 07:28AM

By Laura Lopez Gonzalez

Armed with AK-47s and pistols, a gang of between 12 and 15 men have stormed the Carnival City casino, opening fire on clients, staff and police in an armed robbery that left two police officers seriously wounded.

The men poured into the casino's main gambling hall using multiple entrances just after midnight on Sunday.

"They ordered everyone to 'sleep', to get on the ground," said witness and casino patron James Lepoko.

He, fellow patrons and staff members hit the floor as shopkeepers locked their doors, seeking refuge in back rooms.

Shots rang through the hall as the gunmen aimed their guns at the ceiling, Lepoko said.

A patron was shot in a leg and a female casino employee was injured when one of the men struck her in the face with his gun, according to Gauteng SAPS communication officer Superintendent Eugene Opperman.

Boksburg police, alerted by suspicious surveillance officers, arrived in under 10 minutes, according to Carnival City general manager Riaan van Rooyen.

In the ensuing gunfight, two officers suffered serious injuries.

Though the two were said to be in a stable condition on Sunday, police were withholding the hospital's location so as to safeguard the officers' safety.

"The gang came from everywhere, from every entrance," said an eyewitness and employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"If I said 50 shots had been fired that wouldn't be enough."

He said the casino issued strict orders barring employees from speaking to the press.

Staff and patrons were sequestered until about 4am as police and casino management tried to piece together the intricacies of what witnesses described as a highly co-ordinated plan.

The casino was fully operational by midday and no signs of the heist and shootout were visible - bullet holes had been patched, broken glass repaired and patrons seemed oblivious to the earlier chaos.

According to Sun International sources, no one had yet determined how the gang and their many cars were able to breach the casino's outside security.

Two vehicles allegedly used in the heist were later recovered.

Van Rooyen said investigations into the exact amount of cash stolen were continuing.


Photo system, set to debut on LI and designed to bar troublemakers, has rights groups worried

(Newsday (Melville, NY) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) May 21--Pick a fight in some Long Island nightclubs and it won't be a brawny bouncer banning your return.

It will be a cyberbouncer - lifeless and smaller than its human counterpart - that will help keep troublemakers at bay.

The BioBouncer, a high-tech computer and camera that analyzes club patrons' faces and stores the images, debuts worldwide Memorial Day in a pilot program at four Island Park nightclubs.

Queens-based JAD Communications and Security developed BioBouncer, a sleek metal pole topped with a light and digital camera that feeds data to an on-site computer. Company president Jeff Dussich said the camera would help curb club violence by barring troublemakers whose pictures had been taken previously by the device and saved in its database.

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"We are not just looking at a way to clean up one or two bars, but also a community," said Dussich, a 24-year-old Manhasset native.

Its arrival next weekend has raised concern about whether the device will violate clubgoers' rights by taking large numbers of photographs of law-abiding patrons. Civil rights groups fear BioBouncer could further erode what they see as shrinking privacy rights in a society where surveillance cameras sit atop traffic lights and many public buildings.

Questionable, but legal

The groups also say they are concerned law enforcement agencies could pressure clubs that use the machine to hand over the images as part of criminal investigations, and they add that someone barred from one club could be barred from other clubs that also use BioBouncer, a practice experts say is legal.

"It's not illegal, but it's certainly going to lead to a lot of errors and mistakes and people getting kicked out of clubs who haven't done anything wrong," said Chris Calabrese, counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty program. "I think [club owners] are going to find it as a bad business model."

Others say critics are making too much of a photograph taken at a private business used to identify problem customers.

"People are taking biometrics and negatively comparing it to worries of Big Brother," said Robert Smith, a San Diego detective and nightclub security expert. "You're not looking for terrorists, you are not looking for wanted criminals, you are only looking for guys who are making trouble."

Dussich said law enforcement agencies investigating crimes would not have access to the pictures. However, law enforcement officials believe BioBouncer may do little for them anyway.

"The primary purpose of this system is to enhance the establishment's security," said Det. Lt. Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the Nassau County Police Department. "It's importance to law enforcement remains unclear."

To protect the rights of clubgoers, Dussich said the cache of images taken on a given night by BioBouncer are automatically deleted every 24 hours. Only those images of patrons identified by club management as troublemakers are saved in the database, Dussich said.

A picture of the process

Standing guard by a club's entrance, BioBouncer's camera will take photographs while a human bouncer checks IDs, pats down pockets and collects cover charges. Clubs will post signs telling customers of the device's presence.

The saved images will be shared by other clubs using the device, Dussich said. In many ways, this compares with what casinos do to keep out, say, card counters. If one casino posts the photograph of a counter, other casinos can keep a lookout for that offender and bar the cheater from entry.

"To simplify it, imagine one club owner taking a Polaroid photo of a troublemaker, making copies of the Polaroid, then sharing it with all other clubs in the area," Dussich said. Law enforcement experts say this practice is legal.

John Vitale, a club owner whose security director learned about the device from a news report, will have three BioBouncers installed at Paddy McGee's, the Coyote Grill and the Bridgeview Yacht Club. Vitale said there has been no major trouble at his clubs - and he hopes to keep it that way with BioBouncer.

"It's a natural deterrent," said Vitale, who convinced the owner of nearby club Montego Bay to also use the device. "If someone is a potential problem, you don't want them in."

What happens if a customer, whose image comes up on BioBouncer as a troublemaker, says that's not him or her?

They can plead their case with club management, Vitale said. In addition, Dussich said that his company will monitor use of the device through a manned 24/7 technical center.

Attorney John McEntee, whose Uniondale firm represents companies producing biometric software, said the photograph sharing among clubs doesn't appear unlawful.

"There's nothing private about your face in public," he said. However, McEntee said, problems could arise if the device is being used to exclude certain people based on race or appearance.

The reason behind it

Last year, Nassau County police responded to 131 calls for various reasons at the four Island Park clubs signed up with BioBouncer. Nine arrests resulted in charges, including assault and disorderly conduct, police records show.

Vitale said he hopes the device will keep out "bad guys" who ignite brawls or break other laws similar to a violent struggle that recently occurred at a Garden City nightclub. In March, five men were arrested on riot charges after injuring security guards at Club Posh on Seventh Street.

Nicholas Carentz, 26, of Oceanside, who has hung out at the Island Park clubs, said BioBouncer may help keep out troublemakers, but said he fears patrons who quarrel with someone who "disrespects your girl" could also be targeted.

"It's good, but not good," said Carentz.

Enjoying happy hour at the Kew Club in Queens, Lukasz Bialecki, 28, of Maspeth, said well-behaved customers have no worries.

"It shouldn't bother you if you don't start trouble," he said.

BioBouncer's initial cost is $3,000 to $5,000, then there's a $600 monthly fee. Less costly methods of policing clubs - like well-kept blacklists and bouncers with good memories - also work.

"I don't see how this hi-tech gizmo will help," said Robert Bookman, a lobbyist for the New York Nightlife Association.

Experts say biometrics isn't a perfect science. In Tampa, Fla., police no longer use face scanners because of errors in matching photographs to people, officials said.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit working on free speech and privacy issues, said problems with face-scanning technology far outweigh any benefits.

"The accuracy leaves quite a bit to be desired," said Lee Tien, the group's attorney.

Generally, devices like BioBouncer make a false match once in 250 attempts, said Yevgeny Levitov, president and co-founder of FaceKey Corp. of San Antonio, Texas, which has studied biometrics for 20 years.

He added that errors are reduced by using more than one comparative image and improving lighting - steps Dussich said he has already taken.

In addition to having its own light source, BioBouncer compares multiple images to increase accuracy. For example, if 17 images match 20 stored images of a rowdy customer then "that's a pretty good match," Dussich said.

"[BioBouncer] needs to be used with the best ethics and practices," he added. "It is the utmost importance to us that it doesn't interfere with the patrons having a good time ... and to make sure their privacy is being protected."

What it looks for

Facial recognition systems identify people by distinctive characteristics, called nodal points, unique to almost every person's face. Here are some examples of nodal points.

Distance between the eyes

Width of nose

Depth of eye sockets

Cheekbone, chin and jawline patterns


Big Bouncer is watching

High-tech surveillance is coming to a bar near you. Queens-based JAD

Communications and Security's BioBouncer facial-recognition technology

is designed to curb rowdy behavior by denying access to unwanted partiers.

Here's how it works:

1. Capture station, equipped with a digital camera, scans the face of patrons entering a club.

2. Identifying features are matched against a cache of images of banned patrons

stored on a master database.

3. In case of a match, human bouncer visually examines the database image on an LCD screen attached to back of capture station. Information on banned patrons can be shared among bars and clubs within the system.

$3,000- $5000

Initial cost of BioBouncer installation; $600 monthly maintenance fee not included


Number of facial images BioBouncer scan every several seconds

1 in 250

Average number of false matches made by facial recognition software programs

such as BioBouncer

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I-Cube.   All rights reserved.  Revised: January 13, 2008 .