Singapore government researching facial recognition applications

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) Singapore recently revealed a new security screening solution developed by a team comprised of employees from the Republic of Singapore Navy and DSTA Defence Science and Technology Agency, according to a report by OpenGov Asia.

Announced on the ministry’s Facebook page, the “Smart Base Access” solution uses a smartphone app and facial recognition technology to expedite the security screening process for visitors when they enter Singapore Armed Forces bases.

The system can cut down on the amount of manpower. For example, security troopers responsible for performing security checks can be redeployed to other areas to bolster security in those places, while visitors can get into camps more conveniently and wastage of time will be reduced.

The team was awarded prototype funding at the first Public Service Innovation Challenge last month, with the pilot trial expected to take place at RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base in Q1 2018.

The National Identification (NID) framework, which is designed to enable citizens and businesses to send funds digitally in a convenient and secure way, is one of the country’s strategic smart nation projects.

The current National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) system mostly consists of a card that contains personal information which is stored on government databases.

The government is looking to upgrade this system with a secure digital identification system and expand the infrastructure’s access beyond the government to the private sector.

In response to last month’s parliamentary query about the application of biometric components in the new digital identity system, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education, Dr. Janil Puthucheary revealed the government is researching different biometric methods such as facial recognition, to improve the security for identification, authentication and authorization.

“We are particularly interested in form factors that make it convenient for the elderly, the young and the disabled to use and benefit from the NDI,” Dr. Puthucheary said. “Smart Nation must serve all segments of the population.”

At the newly-opened Terminal 4 (T4) at Singapore’s Changi Airport, facial recognition technology has been integrated into a suite of Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) options.

The Automated Immigration Gates (AIG) use a dual facial and thumbprint biometric recognition system, improving the automated lanes used at existing terminals which use thumbprints.

The AIG system allows passengers to scan their boarding pass at the boarding gate, and the facial recognition system authenticates their identity by taking a photo and matching it against the photo taken earlier at the AIG.

In the opening address at last month’s Public Service Conference 2017, Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), discussed how the Chinese government is currently testing the use of facial recognition systems for financial services, including ATM withdrawals.

“By the end of the year, the iPhone X will be released with facial recognition capabilities,” Ong said. “Some of you may have seen how Changi Terminal 4 (T4), which is opening at the end of this month, will use facial recognition for checking in for airlines. There are various reasons hotels have not adopted this technology for check-ins. But what we want to ensure is that it is not our own rules that trip it up.”

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) will collaborating with the hotel industry to develop suitable prototypes.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is supporting this development by creating a sandbox to enable hotels to test-bed such technologies.

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