Easier Access at Border Processing in International Airports
A new technology is emerging at Australian International airports, as a way of speeding up border processing for frequent travellers. This technology is called SmartGate and is developed by SAGEM Australasia, in partnership with the Australian government.
Originally tested and developed in 2002 for use with Qantas air-crew (Qantas being Australia’s national airline), SmartGate was expanded in 2004 to include over 1,000 Qantas frequent fliers.
This technology is currently only in use at Brisbane International Airport, but it is expected to become available at other airports across the country in the near future.
SmartGate works in conjunction with ePassports, which are combined paper and electronic chip passports that use biometrics to authenticate the citizenship of travellers. SmartGate takes a live image of the travellers face with three different cameras and uses facial recognition technology to match the image to the one stored on the travellers ePassport. SmartGate is also programmed to undertake immigration and customs checks. If the match is successful, then the passenger will be cleared through the control point. If the match is not successful, then the passenger will be referred to a Customs officer.
SmartGate relies upon biometric technology, of the facial recognition subtype to complete its checks. Biometrics is the study of methods for uniquely recognizing humans based upon one or more intrinsic physical or behavioural traits. It includes fingerprints and facial recognition, as well as several others.
Facial recognition systems are computer applications, developed to identify persons, based off of previously recorded photographic or video images of them. The technology functions by comparing selected facial features to the image of the person and a facia database.
Development of Facial Recognition technology began in the 1960’s with three scientists named Bledsoe, Wolf and Bisson. They developed a very simplistic, semi-automatic system that involved the use of both a graphics tablet and a computer. An operator was required to locate specific features on a photograph, using the graphics tablet, before the computer would calculate distances and ratios to a common reference point. In 1988, Kirby and Sirovich advanced this technology to a fully-automated system, using principle component analysis, a simple linear algebra technique. The systems continued growing from there, but remained a relatively unknown technology, until 2001, when it was revealed that security crews at the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, Florida would be using Facial Recognition technology to monitor the crowds at the game for any wanted criminals who might be in attendance.
Despite the coverage that it received at the Super Bowl, Facial Recognition Technology remains one of the least used types of biometrics available. This is probably due to the fact that it is a rather unreliable technology that is easily disturbed by simple occurrences such as a bad camera angle, irregular lighting, weight gain or even a change in facial hair. An ideal situation to for Facial Recognition Technology, would be one where the user would be lit brightly and directly facing the camera, their face un-obscured. This is why Facial Recognition Technology works well with a system like SmartGate, which is a voluntary process that analyzes people one at a time. Another proposed use for Facial Recognition Technology in airports is using it to pick out potential terrorists, but this application is to general and so would not work as well as SmartGate.
With the expanding use of ePassports in Australia, SmartGate technology will soon be available across the country and may one day be used around the world, particularly if Facial Recognition Technology continues to advance at its current rate.