Facial recognition and iris scans to be used within two years

Facial recognition and iris scans will be used by government departments to identify customers within two years, the Emirates Identity Authority has said.

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DUBAI // There is only one you – and if fingerprints don’t prove it, facial-recognition and iris scans will.

Those two methods will be used by government departments to identify customers within two years, the Emirates Identity Authority says.

“Iris scans and facial recognition are very important add-ons to our system,” said Shukri Al Braiki, a director at the authority.

“You use biometrics to ensure that you avoid duplicating a record, which means issuing more than one ID number to the same person.

“We avoid that through fingerprints but when you depend on one factor in biometrics, there is always room for error. So the accuracy is 99.5 to 99.8 per cent but that could increase to 99.95 per cent if you have several biometric technologies.”

Iris scans and fingerprints are already in use for travellers at airports.

“We want to cope with the advances in using such technologies, such as e-gates,” Mr Al Braiki said. “We’re also looking into other biometrics such as voice and motion, but that will take much longer compared to the others.”

The authority started using fingerprints in 2005.

“But the challenge for any new system is enrolling new customers,” Mr Al Braiki said. “We visited Belgium, Estonia and Finland to learn about the way they introduced the system.”

He was speaking on Monday at the first Biometrics Middle East Conference, in Dubai.

The authority will also contribute to a federal one-stop shop online to be launched by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. Some of its services will be available early next year.

“When you look at the local government level by emirate, they’re still mapping the data so as soon as it’s complete they will have the infrastructure to share data and facilitate the data exchange, giving the user a seamless experience,” Mr Al Braiki said.

The UAE has improved its smart services, ranking 29th globally in a UN e-Government survey this year.

“But a challenge in the GCC is that information is still scattered because some departments don’t communicate with each other,” said Dr Usman Zafar, chief executive at Duc International Consulting, which has worked with the Government in this field.

“We must collect, integrate and analyse scattered pieces of data required to assemble the big picture. It’s becoming more and more important.”

Dr Zafar said ease of use with smart services in the Gulf was still very low, despite countries having spent millions of dollars building systems.

“The trust level of people to access those services isn’t very high,” he said. “We must involve students and researchers to develop these services.”

Mr Al Braiki said the culture of using typing centres explained that.

“There are more than 5,000 in the UAE and for us as a country to achieve 80 per cent of government transactions online, we need to push people to use ID cards online. Once they find the convenience, usability will increase.”

Saudi Arabia is also following suit, introducing different technology for its border controls and integrating them in one system.

“One of Saudi’s plans is to build the biggest biometrics centre in the world in 2030,” said Dr Mohammed Aseeri, assistant professor at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and former director of surveillance at the Saudi ministry of interior.

“The capacity of this programme is 30 million people between citizens and residents so we have all their fingerprints in one database.”