Australia pauses biometric boarding trial as pilots in India and Russia begin

The only operational trial of biometric facial recognition smartgates at Australia’s international airports’ arrival gates has been put on hold by the Department of Home Affairs, iTnews reports.

The new smartgates are part of a $22.5 million biometric border control solution from Vision-Box, which also supplies smartgates for departures in the country. The new system is intended to replace legacy technology for arrivals gates supplied by Morpho (now Idemia), and Home Affairs plans to use automation to process 90 percent of international arrivals by the end of 2020. Along with a pair of other initiatives, the plan is to enable seamless, paperless travel.

The “faces on the move” trial at Canberra Airport last year successfully matched 94 percent of 2200 passengers, but a spokesperson for the agency confirmed to iTnews that the Canberra trial of eight new gates has been paused, and the Perth Airport smartgates have not gone into operation despite being installed 6 months ago.

“Smartgate series one gates and Smartgate departures remain in operation and continue to provide a world class traveller experience for travellers entering and departing Australia,” the spokesperson said.

The rollout of new smartgates to other international airports will likely be delayed beyond the current target of June 2020, though Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton previously said that 105 new smartgates would be deployed by the end of 2019.

Digi Yatra rolling out but worrying some

Biometric boarding with Digi Yatra has begun on a voluntary trial basis at Rajiv Ghandi International Airport (RGIA), with registration for facial recognition boarding near departure gates 1 and 3, according to AviationScoop.

During the trial period, staff will still manually verify the credentials of passengers. On the first day of the trial, 180 passengers registered for biometric boarding.

Digi Yatra will also be available at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) by the end of the month, the Times of India reports.

Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) says the implementation is based on a proof of concept and trials over the past 24 months. It will begin with domestic passengers, and be extended to international flights when the process has been refined and government and regulatory approvals are obtained.

Digi Yatra is facing pushback, however, as an editorial on Huffington Post India claims the system undermines privacy by taking personal data out of the individual’s control, and that the planned introduction of 1:N matching, rather than the current 1:1 algorithm, will make the problem worse.

The program is also criticized because of the lack of a data protection law, and in particular the lack of protection from data being used for purposes other than it was collected for. The connection to systems outside of the airport, in particular Aadhaar, the majority stake of private companies in the public-private partnership, the record of inaccurate deployments and controversy, and the potential for it to be declared mandatory in the future are also worrying to the editorial authors.

Russia

S7 Airlines of Russia has launched a trial of facial recognition technology for access control at the executive lounge of its domestic departures area at Domodedovo hub airport, Rustourismnews reports.

Airline representatives will enroll passengers who volunteer at designated check-in counters, and cameras at the lounge entrance will capture images for comparison with VisionLabs’ Luna platform. Screens displaying flight schedules in the lounge also have integrated cameras, to identify passengers and provide them with status information for their flights, and lounge staff can be alerted of passengers who need to be reminded about an upcoming flight.

“We are constantly exploring and introducing new technologies, offering relevant services and improving the passenger experience,” comments S7 Group Deputy General Director for Information Technologies Pavel Voronin. “The testing of this system is just the first step in using face recognition. Eventually, our passengers will be able to walk all the way from the entrance to the airport building to boarding the plane without having to produce their boarding pass. This requires collaboration with our partners from airports and aviation authorities, but in terms of technology, this is already a forseeable future.”

Airport biometrics deployments are expected to grow by 27 percent CAGR, according to Acuity Market Research.

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