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Concerns raised over biometric e-gates’ reliability as UK glitch is resolved

Concerns raised over biometric e-gates’ reliability as UK glitch is resolved

On Tuesday, major UK airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, and Edinburgh all verified that delays in arrivals were being caused by a problem with Border Force’s biometric checks.

AFP writes that officials ruled out a cyberattack as the cause of the disruption, despite earlier rumors.

Despite the issue which caused huge delays at biometric border control gates being resolved, the chair of the Lords Committee on Justice and Home Affairs, Lord Foster of Bath finds the outage deeply concerning.

“Technology invariably fails, but the eGates systems have experienced a number of problems recently. Border Force staff must be equipped and trained to deal with such situations when they arise. Minimizing disruption to passengers is important, but the security of the borders must remain the top priority,” he adds in a statement shared with Biometric Update.

“As we prepare for new processes at our borders, including the wider roll out of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for new cohorts of visitors to the UK, ensuring we have resilience in our systems is essential.”

The e-gate system, which allows eligible passengers to pass through immigration checkpoints swiftly using automated biometric verification, has been instrumental in streamlining border control procedures. However, this week’s outage underscores the vulnerability of such technology-dependent systems to technical failures, raising concerns about their reliability during peak travel periods.

Airline operators and airport authorities have been forced to implement contingency measures to mitigate the impact of the e-gate failure. Additional staff have been deployed to assist with manual passport checks, but the sheer volume of passengers has overwhelmed existing resources, exacerbating the situation.

This outage is not an isolated incident. Similar e-gate problems have been reported in other countries, including Pakistan, where technical glitches have caused disruptions at major airports, according to The Nation. Additionally, e-gate deployments around the world, such as in Australia, the United States, and several European countries, have faced challenges ranging from software malfunctions to compatibility issues with biometric data.

The incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of robust contingency plans and backup systems to address technical failures in critical infrastructure.

“The Government’s ambition is to have ‘the most effective border in the world’. In order to achieve this ambition, the Government must get the fundamentals right – and it must be prepared to learn the appropriate lessons when things go wrong,” Lord Foster of Bath continues.

As nations increasingly rely on e-gate technology to enhance border security and streamline immigration processes, ensuring the reliability and resilience of these systems becomes paramount to maintaining efficient and secure international travel.

Investments in faster passenger processing continue

Elsewhere, Dubai Airports is making investments in biometric technology to streamline passenger processes at Dubai International Airport. The aim is to bolster the airport’s capacity,  in a bid to accommodate 120 million passengers annually, according to the National News.

Similarly, Milan Linate regional airport is launching the FaceBoarding service, which replaces document checks at security and boarding gates with biometrics, Agenzia Nova reports. The mayor of Milan praised the launch as a time-saving measure for Milanese. The biometric technology is supplied by Thales, while Dormakaba is the gate manufacturer.

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