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Asia Minute: Asia Leads the Way on Airport Facial Recognition Technology

Glenn Fawcett
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

If you have travel plans coming up that include a flight to Asia, you may be part of the newest wave of airport technology. The idea is to get passengers on their way more quickly — and without having to always take out a passport.

When it comes to air travel, you know the drill.

Ticket and photo ID – and a quick glance from a security official to make sure you are who you say you are – then a scribble on a ticket and off you go grab a bin for the screening of your carry-on luggage.

Perhaps you’ve wondered whether there might be a better way. They’re working on it. And in Asia, they’re making some progress.

Just last month, the Hong Kong International Airport installed facial recognition technology at several gates. When you check in, your face is scanned into the system along with your ticket information. And that’s all you need through all the remaining checkpoints to walk onto the airplane.

Hong Kong hopes to use that biometric technology at all gates within two to three years.

Singapore has been testing a similar program at Changi Airport.

One target: passengers who miss their final boarding call. Facial recognition can alert authorities to the location of such passengers. Although Reuters reports there are some privacy concerns about an airport full of facial recognition cameras.

Credit U.S. Customs and Border Protection / Flickr
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Chad Shane, station manager of Scandinavian Airlines assists passengers in boarding an international flight using VeriScan facial recognition systems at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, VA

South Korea is going a step further — starting with employees at Incheon Airport.

Last month, those workers started using an identification system using biometric technology to scan a person’s iris. The Korea Herald says the airport hopes to use that eye-scanning technology with passengers by the year 2020.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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