Changi trials face checks 

Singapore’s Changi airport is testing a facial-recognition system which it said could locate passengers and help speed up the boarding process.

The airport is expanding existing uses of the smart identity system and is looking into ways it can end passport checks. 

The Fast and Seamless Travel (Fast) system is being trialled at Changi’s Terminal 4, the newest terminal, to boost “operational efficiency and raise productivity”.

The system could also be used to locate passengers who have missed boarding calls for their flight.

“We have lots of reports of lost passengers, so one possible use we can think of is, we need to detect and find people who are on the flight. Of course, with permission from the airlines,” Steve Lee, Changi’s chief information officer, told the media.

Lee said the airport was working with a number of companies and planned to have facial recognition in place within 12 months.

He added: “Today you take passport, you show your face and you show your boarding pass.

“Then actually in future, you just take your face. You don’t need your passport.”

Passengers will be able to check in at their convenience, without having to wait for passport counters to open, the airport claims. It means there will be fewer visible airport or security staff.

France’s Idemia, previously known as OT-Morpho, has provided facial-recognition technology to Changi and Chinese firm Yitu, which recently opened an office in Singapore, said it was in discussions with Changi. Yitu said its facial-recognition software was capable of identifying more than 1.8 billion faces in less than three seconds.

T4 is already using facial recognition for self-service check-ins, bag drops, immigration and boarding.

The technology scans faces to identify passengers, removing the need for manual verification by security staff.

When a passenger drops luggage at an unstaffed booth, a photo of their face is taken and matched against the passport.

At automated security gates in immigration, another photo is taken and used to check a passenger’s identity at the boarding gate.

Fast could also be used to spot passengers who have missed the last boarding call for their flight and “yield productivity gains with manpower savings of about 20 per cent expected in the longer term” when it is operational across all the whole airport.

Changi is looking at how it can implement facial-recognition technology in its three other terminals at the bag drop and immigration and in the fifth terminal, which is expected to be completed in the next 10 years.

Changi has been ranked the world’s best airport for six years in a row by air travel consultancy Skytrax.

Innovative Changi. Picture credit: Pixabay