UAE’s face recognition technology to create frictionless procedures and secure borders
Complex Made Simple

UAE’s face recognition technology to create frictionless procedures and secure borders

UAE’s face recognition technology to create frictionless procedures and secure borders

The UAE is becoming a hub of activity for facial recognition technology, and government authorities are 100% behind it

  • In March 2020, Abu Dhabi police upgraded their patrol cars with live biometric facial recognition systems
  • A new challenge presented by the pandemic is the ubiquity of face masks, exposing only half of the face
  • Dubai's iris scan improves on the more commonplace automated gates seen elsewhere

Super-fast computers, smaller processors, mass manufacturing, and maturing AI capabilities are the driving factors behind facial recognition’s increasing utility. 

The UAE is becoming a hub of activity for the technology, and government authorities are 100% behind it.

The UAE Cabinet approved the use of facial ID in certain sectors to verify the identity of individuals and cut paperwork

“The initiative will be expanded if it proves to be successful,” an official tweet stated.

In March 2020, Abu Dhabi police upgraded their patrol cars with live biometric facial recognition systems. It is also used for border checks.

In Dubai, AI-driven facial recognition is being used to secure public transport

In Ajman, the police installed 65 new facial recognition devices to check attendance and help curb the spread of COVID-19. A walk through the "Smart Tunnel" at Dubai Airport also gives you a glimpse of how border gates are facing profound changes, thanks to AI.

Read: Verkada’s Camera breach: Surveillance rears its ugly face

Read: Bad move. Fighting cybercriminals with behavioral biometrics

How does it work? 

Facial recognition allows the system to map a face and store different images in a database. With enough images of anyone’s face and faster searches, a numeric representation of the face is now able to come up with a way that recognizes unique features in no time and is compared to database images of previously identified faces, such as an ePassport photograph database.

The image quality depends largely on lighting, resolution, and facial orientation. The system is not perfect. False positives might present a security concern to the system owner, as they may allow access to impostors.

A new challenge presented by the pandemic is the ubiquity of face masks, exposing only half of the face. But that doesn’t change the fact that your face is unique and the top half of your face is just as unique as the bottom half. So, in theory, facial recognition will be able to identify you, with just half a face as a reference.

In 2019, the global facial recognition market was worth $3.5 billion. It’s expected to reach $10 bn by 2025. 

Dubai Airport 

Dubai airport’s east-west transit hub is rolling out an iris-scanner that verifies one’s identity and eliminates the need for any human interaction when entering or leaving the country.

It’s the latest AI program the UAE has launched amid the surging coronavirus pandemic. 

But the efforts also have renewed questions about mass surveillance in the federation of seven sheikhdoms, which experts believe has among the highest per-capita concentrations of surveillance cameras in the world.

Dubai's airport started offering the program to all passengers recently.  

In recent years, airports across the world have accelerated their use of time-saving facial recognition technology to move passengers to their flights. 

But Dubai's iris scan improves on the more commonplace automated gates seen elsewhere, authorities said, connecting the iris data to the country's facial recognition databases so the passenger needs no identifying documents or boarding pass. 

“The future is coming," said Major Gen. Obaid Mehayer Bin Suroor, deputy director of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs. “Now, all the procedures have become ‘smart,' around five to six seconds.”

According to Emirates' biometric privacy statement, the airline links passengers' faces with other personally identifying data, including passport and flight information, retaining it for “as long as it is reasonably necessary for the purposes for which it was collected.” 

Bin Suroor stressed that Dubai's immigration office “completely protects” passengers' personal data so that “no third party can see it.”

Iris biometrics are considered more reliable than surveillance cameras that scan people's faces from a distance without their knowledge or consent.

Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum had also announced the country would begin trials of new facial recognition technology to cut down on paperwork in “some private sector services.”

Yas Island 

Visitors to Abu Dhabi's Yas Island theme park and resort may now use face recognition to make contactless payments to enter the parks as well as at retail and dining outlets, according to a report in NFCW.

To use the FacePass service, visitors create an account on the Yas Island mobile app, upload a selfie and link it to a credit card and the resort's ticketing system, which then can authenticate their identity at theme park turnstiles and point-of-sale readers with their face.

In addition to face-recognition software, the Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island will give guests wristbands that unlock their rooms and allow access to Yas Theme Parks and more by tapping the wristband on a digital reader.

The long-term digital transformation for Yas Island will see the use of FacePass technology integrated into all Yas Island assets.

Author
Hadi Khatib

Hadi Khatib is a business editor with more than 15 years' experience delivering news and copy of relevance to a wide range of audiences. If newsworthy and actionable, you will find this editor interested in hearing about your sector developments and writing about it. [email protected]

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