Facial recognition deployed for curb to gate automation at Shanghai airport, planned for Heathrow

Self-service facial recognition kiosks have been deployed at Shanghai Hangqiao International Airport for flight and baggage check-in, security clearance, and boarding, ZDNet reports. Heathrow Airport, meanwhile, is rolling out facial biometric technology for optional check-in, bag drop, and boarding processes, according to the Gazette News.

Several Chinese airports, including in Beijing and Nanyang, have rolled out facial biometric systems, but Shanghai’s is reported to be the first fully automated system.

Spring Airlines, the first airline at Hongqiao Airport to adopt the system, says 87 percent of its first 5,000 travellers since the kiosks were unveiled have used them, and that the kiosks can cut check-in times to under one and a half minutes.

Human Rights Watch Senior China Researcher Maya Wang expressed concern with the deployment.

“Authorities are using biometric and artificial intelligence to record and track people for social control purposes,” Wang said “We are concerned about the increasing integration and use of facial recognition technologies throughout the country, because it provides more and more data points for the authorities to track people.”

Heathrow’s new £50 million (US$65.4 million) system is expected to launch in the summer of 2019, and reportedly has the potential to cut the time of the average passenger’s passage through the airport by up to a third.

Heathrow Customer Relations and Service Director Jonathan Coen said biometrics are key to making it quicker and easier to for increasing volumes of passengers to travel securely through the airport.

“With this technology we’ll be able to offer passengers choice on how they travel through our airport, with colleagues on hand to guide passengers that require it,” Coen says. “Biometric technology has been well received by our passengers so far and we’re looking forward to working with our colleagues and the airline community as part of our ongoing transformation at Heathrow, with a focus on enhancing passenger experience.”

The deployment could allow Heathrow to reduce the repetitive tasks carried out by airport staff, who could focus on customer assistance.

Delta Airlines recently announced the first curb to gate biometric system in the U.S. at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

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