Dubai to Test Biometric Border Control

  • Data
  • 09.06.2017 07:45 am

A British start-up company are behind a new revolution in passport control, which could see the end of the passport, and passport control, as we know it. 

UK based ObjectTech today formally announced an agreement has been reached between themselves and the Dubai government for the launch of a pilot project to install the world’s first ‘biometric border’. It will see passengers travelling to Dubai able to step off planes and walk straight to baggage reclaim via a short tunnel in which a three dimensional scan of a person’s face is able to instantly check them into the country from an entirely digital passport.

Having been chosen to take part in the Dubai government’s ‘Dubai Future Accelerator’ programme in January, the team at ObjectTech have been working with Dubai’s immigration department (the GDRFA) to apply their technology to the country’s main international airport. 

The biometric border system creates an entirely digital passport for each individual. This will not only contain the data currently stored in chips on existing e-passports, but is able to build on it to include anything from fingerprints to iris scans and facial recognition data. The end product, a result of advances in LIDAR technology, is a system able to recognise passengers in record times without them even needing to stop walking. 

The new technology goes far further than simply improving the experience of passport control however. A fundamental part of the digital passport is that it protects the privacy of the individual through the creation of what ObjectTech are calling a ‘self-sovereign identity’. This means that, just as with existing physical passports that you keep in your pocket, your digital passport is your data to control. By using a technology called blockchain the information stored in the new digital passports can be trusted by governments and means only you, and the people you specifically permit, can see your data; it’s physically impossible for even ObjectTech to access it. The new digital passports are far more secure, harder to forge and more accurate than the existing passport - and you can’t lose them.

Not only does this technology mean there will no longer be a need to stop at passport control, but it will dramatically reduce the potential for identity fraud. It will also enable people to store more detailed material on their passports in an entirely private way, such as financial information, addresses or location data from a mobile phone. By gathering information on a wide range of digital activity the technology creates an increasingly detailed and precise picture of who you are, to create your personal ‘self-sovereign’ identity. Containing data that can’t be faked or altered, the end result is a digital identity system that is far more secure and useful than a traditional passport.

Beyond international travel, the technology is able to give people back control of their own digital data. It has the power to dramatically change the way people interact with all manner of services. A bank account could be opened instantly by taking data from a passport, health insurance could be activated in an emergency simply from facial recognition. The system even allows you to personally store all your internet browsing data, rather than allowing companies like Google to store and benefit from it. You could then sell this back to relevant advertisers, should you wish to profit yourself. 

“This is an identity that is fit for the digital age. Not only will it make international travel quicker and safer, but it also gives people back control of their personal digital data, which over the last decade is something that has increasingly become the property of third parties. Dubai is really committed to improving the lives of their citizens and visitors through technology and we’re very excited to be a part of making that a reality.” - Paul Ferris, cofounder and CEO of ObjectTech 

The Dubai pilot project is due to make its greatest impact by 2020, when 20 million people will be going through this one airport, per month! ObjectTech are now looking for further funding to expand the project into new markets, both geographically and into new sectors.”

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