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Australia readies for modified, more expensive two-step Idemia biometric airport SmartGates

Australia readies for modified, more expensive two-step Idemia biometric airport SmartGates

Australia’s plan for biometric passenger identification for arrivals at its international airports is back on track with a revived deal with Idemia. A previous contract with Vision-Box failed, leading the Department of Home Affairs to resume its partnership with Idemia to install a two-step system with registration kiosk and gates, using facial verification then facial recognition, reports InnovationAus.

Darwin is expected to be the first of Australia’s eight international airports to receive the updated SmartGates system as part of the Idemia Life Extension Project, with installation in November 2022, to be ready for going live in December. The other airports will follow by the end of 2024.

The cost of Idemia’s contract for support and maintenance of the SmartGates has risen this year, reports InnovationAus, by AU$12.8 million (US$8.6 million), to a total of AU$42.7 million ($28.6 million), until July 2024.

This deal comes alongside a AU$180 million ($128 million) biometric forensics deal (roughly double the original deal).

The updated system will see a similar passenger journey to the existing 2007 Idemia setup. Passengers first process themselves at a SmartGate kiosk, then later pass through the SmartGate itself.

According to the report, biometric validation happens at both stages. The kiosk confirms and validates the passenger’s identity against the passport, then the subsequent gate uses the face as the token, meaning there is no need to present any sort of ticket from the kiosk stage.

“The new system will use both face verification and face recognition, with the gate to search for the biometric captured at the kiosks and verify it against the live traveller, as well as their passport image,” states InnovationAus.

The 2017 AU$22.5 million (or AU$22.7 million, $15 million) contract with Vision-Box for a more ambitious system of using the photo image from advanced passenger information to fully automate arrivals via facial analysis broke down after the 2018 trials in Canberra – correctly identifying 94 percent of passengers – and then Perth airport. That arrivals system was part of the Seamless Traveller initiative for contactless processes and to replace the paper-based arrivals cards.

In August 2019, Idemia was awarded the AU$30 million extension, casting doubt on the future for Vision-Box in the scheme. Vision-Box’s approach was found not “fit-for-purpose” later in 2019, notes InnovationAus.

That September, the SmartGate scheme Vision-Box supplies for departures was extended to 2026.

COVID-19 restrictions drastically reduced air passenger numbers to and from Australia, with current levels still at half those of pre-pandemic travel.

Unisys and Idemia launched a biometric identification system for Australia’s border control in 2020 which included optimized visa and border processing as well as criminal and security threat detection.

The French identity giant could be sold or undergo a split this year, according to rumors.

This post was updated at 9:46am Eastern on September 21, 20222 to clarify that the Vision-Box contract extended in 2019 is for departures, rather than the arrivals system involving Idemia.

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