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How AI looks set to power facial recognition passport adoption across Southeast Asia post-COVID

By Abhijit Shanbhag, founder and CEO of Graymatics

Driven by rapid technological change, there have been significant advances in AI and facial recognition systems. With the exponential increase of embedded smart cameras and computing power, facial recognition is becoming a powerful, ubiquitous tool for streamlining operations.

Facial recognition technology has evolved rapidly due to the pandemic as the inherent contactless nature of facial recognition makes it a highly desirable alternative to fingerprint scanners and even RFID cards used for access and attendance monitoring.

More and more airports within Southeast Asia are beginning to trial AI-powered video technology to improve airport experience, increase airport efficiency and reduce terminal congestion. Having to rely on biometric identification like facial recognition for identity verification poses one less problem for the aviation industry. One of the major airports in Malaysia, The Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), is commencing the usage of facial recognition as a single token identification authentication. It can take less than a second to match a person’s face to the ID whilst also verifying necessary credentials. With the trials having been set in place even before the pandemic kicked in, the airport authorities ensure that this step-up would allow the passengers to go through the entire airport procedure without having to show any documents at all right from check-in to the boarding gates. Through facial recognition technology, passengers are able to cut passport queue times and avoid inefficient check-in formalities.

Singapore’s Changi Airport has already been leveraging the power of facial and iris recognition and is actively planning to automate immigration clearance gates, which are expected to be fully unmanned in the near future. Changi Airport is also planning to operate self check-ins, baggage drop machines and lifts without touching the buttons. Such touch-free travel with minimal contact with staff and surface can ensure highest standards of safety and hygiene amid the Covid-19 pandemic.  Biometric technology can also be applied to other tasks such as entry to airport lounges or duty-free shopping.

Moreover, advanced facial recognition technology has the ability to identify consumer trends and allow for greater personalisation of passenger services. This might be particularly useful for passengers requiring additional assistance. Despite widespread concerns around biometric data privacy, research by IATA has shown that 64 percent of passengers would be willing to share their personal information in exchange for a better travel experience.

Biometrics could also become the key to vaccination passports. As countries prepare to set foot into a post-Covid19 world, digital vaccine passports will inevitably become a part of our daily lives. With any kind of document, there are numerous procedures needed for it to be operated across borders and jurisdictions. The easiest and quickest way to tackle this issue is through biometrics, which not only adds convenience but can provide extensive security.

There are a number of concerns that the paper vaccine card may not be sufficient enough to cross the borders post Covid-19 due to the replicability issues. Turning technology as a vehicle for vaccine passports would provide numerous benefits – most importantly security. Facial recognition as a security method can ensure personal and health information is kept safe. Compared to the traditional security systems, facial recognition systems scan faces, iris or  other physical features instead of passwords or security questions to access information; thus, the risk of theft and hacking are minimized.

With an increasing number of airports adopting the technology within Southeast Asia, the journey for Facial Analytics is an upward climb considering the ubiquity of cameras and other forms of video sensors, even with the rising complexity of technical challenges and required skills. Facial recognition technology will not only prove a boon for the people, enterprises and society in Singapore but also in the rest of Southeast Asia.

With our faces becoming our passports and with reliance on biometrics and surveillance, there is a hope for safe and efficient international travel in a post-pandemic world. However, only time can tell how effective facial recognition systems will move forward from here.

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