THE Hong Kong International Airport (香港國際機場) has launched the use of e-Security gates – which use biometric technology to verify travel documents of departing passengers before they enter the restricted area – to reduce queuing time.
Four electronic gates were opened for use on 20 September, following three weeks of tests. The airport will gradually add 40 more by the first quarter of next year.
Passengers over 11 years old, including locals and tourists, can use the system. No prior enrolment is required. Child passengers under 11 years old will still need to be checked in person because of facial changes as they grow up.
The e-Security gates are equipped with document reading devices and cameras. Passengers can scan their travel documents and boarding passes, and then look at a camera to have their face verified. The system will automatically match the passenger’s face with the photo in the travel document, which will take about 20 seconds per person.
Chris Au Young (歐陽顯宏), general manager of Smart Airport (智能機場) for the Airport Authority (機場管理局), said the target is to achieve no queuing time for passengers, with all 44 machines in use next year.
He said this has already taken into consideration the increase in passenger numbers after the opening of the third runway. The airport handled a total of 72.9 million passengers last year. Currently, airport security staff carries out the travel document checking process manually to ensure that passengers’identities match the information shown on their boarding passes.
Au Young estimated that manual checks take 2.5 minutes at peak hours, so using the e-Security gate will save passengers time.
He said it is the first time biometrics are being used to streamline the passengers’ boarding process at the Hong Kong International Airport and they plan to expand the technology to other procedures.
“This is the starting point for the whole biometrics journey,” he said. “In the near future, the Hong Kong International Airport will extend the use of biometrics and facial recognition to check-in and boarding procedures with the aim of using passengers’ faces for identity verification throughout their departure process at the airport, providing a seamless experience for travellers.”
He is confident that the facial recognition technology is mature and accurate. Passengers do not even need to take their glasses off. But sunglasses and hats need to be removed for facial recognition.
A spokesman added the use of e-Security gates will allow the airport to deploy staff flexibly, but it will not reduce manpower overall.
Shenzhen (深圳) checkpoints have been using facial recognition for many years. The gates scan the travel documents and match people’s face and thumbprint automatically.
(This article is published on the Student Standard on 27 September 2018)