New biometrics system to speed up travel through UAE

The system will include eye scans, facial recognition and fingerprinting.

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DUBAI // Travellers coming in and out of the UAE will soon be able to zoom through immigration control thanks to an integrated biometrics system launched by the Ministry of Interior, an official announced on Thursday.

The system, which will include eye scans, facial recognition and fingerprinting, will also be able to detect forged passports.

“There are numerous security challenges in the region,” said Col Barakat Al Kendi, the ministry’s head of systems development and chairman of e-transformation strategy.

“And the UAE needs a solid security system that allows it to screen and track all passengers.”

With more than 80 million travellers expected to transit Dubai International Airport this year, and Abu Dhabi witnessing a 20 per cent rise in passenger numbers last year, the e-ports project aims to be transformational.

“The project is a continuation of others to develop airports and equip them with state-of-the-art technologies,” Col Al Kendi said at the second day of the Future of Borders conference in Dubai.

The ministry will collect personal data, in collaboration with the Emirates Identity Authority, from passengers who will then be able to use e-gates.

“The project is tremendous and imposes many requirements that don’t stop at technical equipment,” Col Al Kendi said. “Staff, for instance, need to be trained in using the new technologies. There will be a need to create jobs.”

He said the main target was to move from human to electronically-operated counters.

“E-gates can also be used by people with special needs,” Col Al Kendi said. “The main identification technology in the new e-gates is the eye scan.

“The UAE was among the first countries in the world to use it and it helped in banning some 400,000 people from entering the country.”

Facial recognition will cross check a traveller’s face print with the photo on an electronic passport and help uncover forged or lost passports.

“Everyone in the UAE has had their fingerprints recorded,” he said.

“The new e-ports system will use fingerprint screening to check for any security-related restrictions against passengers, while non-residents will be screened using iris scanning.”

Dual-nationality residents were considered a major challenge in the past.

“It caused security risks, with people who entered the country using one passport and left using another,” Col Al Kendi said. “The system allows us to identify and link all the travel documents that one person uses.”

Another project the ministry is working on is developing land borders.

“They differ slightly from airports in terms of the nature of passengers and the means of travel,” the colonel said.

All these procedures would be integrated in a smart system using fingerprinting to identify travellers.

David Ploog, director of M2P Consulting, said technology was evolving rapidly.

“The need for change comes from the increase in travel and, in 2030, we will see passenger travel double so the future of border control can only be realised if certain prerequisites such as biometric information and passenger information sharing are in place.”