Wed, May 02, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Singapore testing facial recognition at Changi Airport


Ever been delayed on a flight because of straggling fellow passengers?

That might be an annoyance of the past at Singapore’s Changi Airport, which is testing facial recognition systems that could help locate lost travelers or those spending a little too much time in duty-free shops.

Changi Airport, ranked the world’s best for six years straight in a survey by Skytrax, is looking at how it can use the latest technologies to solve many problems, from cutting taxiing times on the runway to quicker predictions of flight arrivals.

It comes as the nation embarks on a “smart nation” initiative to utilize technology to improve lives, create economic opportunity and build community ties, but the proposed use of cameras mounted on lampposts that are linked to facial recognition software has raised privacy concerns.

Changi Airport Group chief information officer Steve Lee (李禧光) said that the experiments are not from a “big brother” perspective, but solve real problems.

“We have lots of reports of lost passengers ... so one possible use case we can think of is, we need to detect and find people who are on the flight. Of course, with permission from the airlines,” Lee said, adding that they should have some capability to do this in a year’s time.

While he declined to provide names of the firms involved, France’s Idemia has previously provided some facial recognition technology to Changi.

Chinese firm Yitu, which says its facial recognition platform is capable of identifying more than 1.8 billion faces in less than 3 seconds, said it was in discussions with the airport.

Changi’s newest terminal, T4, already uses facial recognition to offer self-service options at check-in, bag drop, immigration and boarding.

The technology means there are fewer lines and fewer visible airport or security staff.

Luggage is dropped at uncrewed booths that take your photograph and match it against your passport. You are snapped again at an automated security gate at immigration — a picture that is used to verify your identity at the gate.

The airport sees T4 as a test bed for its fifth terminal, which will be up and running in about a decade.

“Today you take passport, you show your face and you show your boarding pass,” Lee said, but added that it might be possible to use biometrics instead.

“Then actually in the future, you just take your face. You don’t need your passport,” he said.

Other technology trials at the airport use sensors to measure when an aircraft pushes back from the gate and when it takes off, data that has improved decisionmaking and shaved about 90 seconds off of aircraft taxiing time during peak hours, Lee said.

Another program uses artificial intelligence that gathers wind, weather and landing direction to learn to better predict flight arrival times two hours early.

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