Complex Made Simple

Your face will be your first passport at Dubai airports

Some people don’t forget a face, while others can’t remember their own names. This new system at Dubai’s airports will never have these problems.

On October 2nd, Obaid Al Hameeri, Deputy Director General of Dubai Residency and Foreign Affairs, announced that all security and border checks at Dubai Airport would be carried out without any human interaction in the coming years, in an attempt to create 100 per cent virtual borders.

Within the framework of this new initiative, visitors at GITEX Technology Week 2017 tried the new virtual aquarium tunnel, equipped with 80 cameras placed in every corner to scan travelers’ faces.

The new technology will save travelers from passing through any kind of security clearance counter.

Needless to say, Dubai has always been a pioneer for technology- driven initiatives in every aspect of the Emirates’ development.

Qatar has also announced its plans to use facial recognition soon at Hamad International Airport.

But is this new initiative absolutely positive?

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Virtual border: pros and cons

Saj Ahmad, Chief Analyst at StrategicAero Research, says that virtual airport concepts are considered effective solutions in some cases. “They can effectively replace the need for staff in areas where automation can provide a better solution,” he told AMEinfo.

“In the case of Dubai Airport, the new tunnels can operate with no staff in place 24 hours a day and security personnel can be rostered better with fewer staff for those instances where intervention is required,” he said.

According to a review by Dubai Airport, the number of passengers is expected to substantially grow. Also, DWC, Dubai’s second airport, will undergo a $32 billion expansion, which will enable the airport to accommodate more than 240 million passengers a year.

Hence, this requires the adoption of technologies that facilitate the smooth flow of passengers.

Ahmad said that one big benefit was that the virtual tunnels allowed better free flow movement of passengers, despite the continued growth in volumes while freeing up airport staff for other tasks.

Ahmad, on the other hand, expressed concerns about the efficient performance of such systems, in the event of power anomaly.

“Of course, there is a huge risk that these tunnels could fail in the event of a power anomaly – in which case more staff would be required immediately to deal with processing of many passengers – so where will that resource come from?” he asked.

However, Ahmad believes that it is difficult to speak of drawbacks to the system, until it is active.

Read: Passenger traffic at Dubai airport rises, but Abu Dhabi drops 2 per cent

He noted that the cost of this new technology was still unclear, because it mainly depends on two factors: first, it depends on the number of virtual tunnels installed; and secondly, it depends on the number of employees who are assigned duties. “At present, both of those elements are unknown at this stage,” he said.

According to Ahmad, the new technology will be installed by the end of next summer at Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport, while it will be placed at all terminals by 2020.

But what is the technology currently in use at Dubai airport?

Dubai currently uses biometric screening system in the country’s airports.

The security system scans eyes and fingerprints.

All UAE citizens have their fingerprints recorded, so the e-gates provide an immediate security analysis with respect to UAE travelers; non-residents, meanwhile, are subject to iris scanning.

Dubai is not the only country considering the deployment of smart technologies at its airports.

Other countries, such as the U.S. and Australia, already use facial recognition technologies, while they also have plans to roll out more smart gates at their airports in the near future.

Australia and US

According to Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Arrivals SmartGate is currently available at Australia’s eight major international airports, including Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Gold Coast, Perth and Sydney.

According to CIO, a platform that provides technology decision-makers with expertise on Business Strategy and Innovation, the federal government will spend $22.5 million over the next three years deploying facial recognition technology at Australia’s airports, eliminating the need for travelers to produce passports at gates.

It said that the government would deploy 105 new smart gates with more expected to be rolled out in the future. This initiative is part of the government’s $123.6 million investment in improving border services.

Meanwhile, the Donald Trump Administration is planning to expand the use of biometric facial recognition systems at airports around the United States called Biometric Exit, according to a report released in Q2 2017 by the International Business Times, aimed at preventing loose entry to the US.

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