Dubai airport is replacing security checks with a virtual aquarium

Fish will verify travellers’ identity

Helen Coffey
Thursday 12 October 2017 09:55 BST
A digital aquarium is the latest development in airport security
A digital aquarium is the latest development in airport security (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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The security line at an airport, commonly acknowledged as one of the worst places on earth, just got a bit less soul destroying. Dubai International Airport announced that next year it will drop the ever-so-passé human security checks for biometric scanning – in the form of an aquarium.

Visitors will walk through admiring virtual fish while 80 in-built cameras scan each person’s face and verify their identity.

"The fish is a sort of entertainment and something new for the traveller but, at the end of the day, it attracts the vision of the travellers to different corners in the tunnel for the cameras to capture his/her face print," foreign affairs chief Major Gen Obaid Al Hameeri told The National.

The virtual fish, therefore, play a vital role in capturing passengers’ attention so the cameras can scan them accurately.

The airport’s new feature is due to be up and running in terminal 3 by the end of 2018 and will launch in the other terminals by 2020. It’s not just fish either – the aquarium can be swapped for other virtual scenes.

Travellers have to pre-register before using the biometric tunnel by visiting one of the airport’s 3D face scanning kiosks; then, when they’ve walked through the virtual aquarium, their biometrics will be compared to their digital profile and, if it’s a match, they’ll be waved through with the message “have a nice trip”. If there’s an issue, visitors will be stopped so security officers can perform more checks.

Biometric scanning is set to revolutionise the airport experience the world over.

The Independent reported that low-cost US carrier JetBlue implemented a trial of face-reading technology to speed up the boarding gate process at Boston Logan International Airport whereby passengers scan their travel documents at a selfie kiosk. But JetBlue is not alone in focusing on biometrics to reduce and eventually eliminate queues at the boarding gate.

In February, Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport – which has set itself the target of becoming the world’s “leading digital airport” by 2018 – also announced a facial-recognition trial in collaboration with KLM, where passengers can board without having to show a boarding pass and passport. To enrol in the process, passengers scan their passports, boarding passes and have a photo of their face taken by a special registration kiosk (personal data is automatically deleted after boarding). Beyond that procedure, passengers needn’t exhibit any further documentation – their face is enough to grant them access through to the gate and they can proceed to the plane.

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