If you have travelled through Stansted Airport recently, you may have been tempted to try out the new facial recognition machines that have been installed in a landmark trial. The new technology has arrived at the airport in a bid to improve waiting times for passengers and to add an extra level of security at passport control.
The new machines work by scanning the face of the traveller and then comparing it to the digital photo that is stored on their biometric passport. After making the scan, the machines measures a series of points on the traveller's face to compare it to the passport photo to see how well they match. It can then instantly tell if they are the same person and allow them through the gate. The system is also intelligent enough to recognise when people have changed their appearance since their passport photo was last taken.
It is currently only available to UK or European citizens, and only to those who carry a biometric passport. However, no registration process is involved.
The trial is a joint partnership between BAA and the UK Border Agency. The assistant director of the UK Border Agency, Barry McGill, said that the gates should be used to “reduce the time you spend at passport control”.
Although Stansted is the first place in the country to get the machines, the technology will also be available in 10 other airports by August of this year, and it could soon become the standard method used at passport controls across the world. However, airports are still likely to rely to an extent on traditional technology in the form of manual checks which will be carried out at random.