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Biometrics to replace passports at Australian airports


Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection announced plans to implement a new biometric system at the country’s international airports by 2020, which will include replacing existing paper ID passports with face, iris and/or fingerprint recognition, according to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Budgeted to cost $94 million over five years, the Seamless Traveler system aims to make the airport process more efficient by enabling 90% of arrivals to automatically pass unmanned electronic stations at some time between 2019 and 2020.

An airport security official would only need to intervene in the event the kiosk detects a travel restriction or technical issue, the department said.

The planned technology would also mark a significant improvement over the SmartGates installed at some airports, which were initially introduced less than 10 years ago.

The new “contactless” system will replace SmartGates, processing travelers by face, iris and/or fingerprint recognition.

Dr. John Coyne, head of border security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, credits the “world-first” system to the long-term vision of the most senior immigration bureaucrats.

The department globally sourced and analyzed massive amount of traveler data, including ticket information, travel history and criminal records.

The project, which has been in development since 2015, will “transform the border experience”, according to the department. However, the government is still seeking adequate suppliers for the technology.

“The department is asking tenderers to provide innovative solutions to allow arriving travellers to self-process,” an immigration spokeswoman said. “The department has not therefore defined the specific solution or how it will differ from existing arrivals or departures SmartGates.”

Dr. Coyne said that early versions of the technology could potentially process travelers at arrivals through a corridor, which would capture and check their biometrics without ever requiring them to stop.

The department is hoping to pilot the technology in July at Canberra Airport before expanding it to a major airport such as Sydney or Melbourne in November, with the full rollout completed by March 2019.

Last week, Australia’s One Nation leader Pauline Hanson introduced a new plan calling for a fingerprint-enabled national ID card for all citizens in an effort to curb welfare fraud.

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