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Shanghai airport launches China’s first security clearance system using facial recognition

The new system sees technology replace people at every stage of boarding

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 17 October 2018 10:38 BST
Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport has introduced biometric technology
Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport has introduced biometric technology (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport is China’s first to launch an automated security clearance system using facial recognition.

Introduced on Monday 15 October in Terminal One, the eight security machines scan passengers’ ID cards and faces to check they match, reducing the clearance procedure time to around 12 seconds. It is only available to Chinese ID cardholders.

These machines are part of a move to make the whole airport process unassisted, from check-in to bag drop, security clearance to boarding. The project took three years to complete.

Dai Xiaojian, vice president of Shanghai Airport (Group) Co, said in a statement that, although the quantity of passengers moving through the terminal per hour will remain at 10 million, the quality of the security check will be vastly improved.

Shanghai is just the latest in a long line of airports keen to jump on the biometrics bandwagon.

In June 2017, New York-based low cost carrier JetBlue introduced a collaborative trial with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and information technology company Sita “to test a new paperless and deviceless self-boarding process as part of ongoing trials to implement a biometric exit process in the future”. The carrier became the first airline to integrate with CBP to use biometrics and facial recognition technology to verify customers at the gate during boarding.

The previous month, in a separate biometric initiative, Finnair invited 1,000 of its frequent flyers to participate in a face recognition test at Helsinki Airport to improve the airline’s understanding of the impact face recognition technology could have on the customer experience.

Customers taking part in the test used an app to send three selfies and upload Finnair loyalty card information to the test system, before using a check-in desk with facial recognition technology.

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“We want to make air travel flow even smoother and be involved in developing the customer experience,” said Heikki Koski, vice president of Helsinki airport. “Facial recognition is part of the larger megatrend of biometric recognition, and it will enable ‘hands-in-the-pockets’ travelling, where you no longer need any travel documents.”

And this new technology works – in August 2018, it helped catch a man trying to enter the US using a passport belonging to someone else, according to US officials.

The 26-year-old was intercepted at Washington’s Dulles International Airport while attempting to use a French passport that was not his own. The man was travelling to the US from Brazil.

“The officer utilised CBP’s new facial comparison biometric technology which confirmed the man was not a match to the passport he presented,” the CBP press release said. It added: “A search revealed the man’s authentic Republic of Congo identification card concealed in his shoe.”

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