Security checks, immigration and customs are a daunting hassle, even to the innocent traveller. The need for security and public safety is apparent, but this often comes at the cost of comfort.

Singapore’s Changi Airport is reinventing this experience – the newly minted terminal 4 is being tested to offer facial recognition-backed immigration and boarding. The entire experience from entering the airport to boarding the flight is expected to be do-it-yourself, with no stops at counters or long queues along the way. The airport isn’t bypassing security protocols though – advanced biometric technology scan people as they pass.

From across the world, here are three ways the use of biometrics is improving how governments interact with their citizens while ensuring public safety.

Reinventing user experience

Biometric technology has the power to reinvent user experience. With the use of facial biometrics, a person can walk into a government office for an appointment and the AI-backed facial recognition system can anticipate what they are there for and where they will need to go.

“Everything could be automated from the point that you make the appointment to when you enter the building and where you have to go,” explains Khai Hwa Toh, General Manager for Defence and Homeland Security at DXC Technology. This is an approach that the company is trialling with public safety agencies in Asia.

DXC Technology has worked on similar systems in the newly minted Changi Airport terminal 4. The fully automated set up together with biometrics enables “smart identity” capabilities, Steve Lee, the CIO and Group SVP, Technology at Changi Airport Group told GovInsider. In the future, frequent fliers of the future may not need to undergo the same security checks every time. What this means is that these passengers may not even need their passport to travel – a face scan is enough.

Streamlining workflow

Biometrics doesn’t only impact end user experience, it improves workflow, says Toh. Law enforcement investigators, previously went through a tedious process of looking for cameras that may have picked up a crime, scrubbing through the whole video, and then identifying witnesses or perpetrators. Instead, facial recognition can instantly identify people caught on video near the scene of a crime. “If this entire process were somehow automated it would drastically cut down the amount of time it takes for them to really identify the culprit,” Toh adds.

In Shenzhen, a city of 10 million people, finding a kidnapped child can take a very long time. As time passes, the risk of not finding the child increases multifold. But earlier this year, AI-backed facial recognition found a kidnapped child and the perpetrator within seconds of a video search, reported Xinhua news. The system used biometric facial recognition technology to scan through live video footage of over a thousand cameras.

Singapore is keen to learn from the Chinese experience – last year Prime Minister Lee visited Chinese facial recognition company SenseTime on his trip to Beijing. “China’s use of technology has been quite advanced over the last ten years,” says Toh. Earlier this year, three Singapore organisations signed MOUs with SenseTime to cater to industrial and institutional needs, reported Channel News Asia.

Improving proactivity

The use of biometrics has allowed governments to be more proactive. With access to biometrics, law enforcement officials can respond to situations more quickly. “In terms of law enforcement it will really make a big difference if there were already a database for them to reference a person,” says Toh.

The UN’s International Organisation of Migration has set up a Regional Biometric Data Exchange Solution (RBDES) which allows law enforcement officials to respond faster. The RBDES framework allows law enforcement agencies to exchange biometrics data quickly and securely to verify the identities of travellers at borders that might not hold appropriate documentation. Biometrics of travellers is shared, but not stored, on a web-based platform that can be accessed by countries on the framework.

The framework for the first time allows a secure exchange of biometric data for migration and border management. Now, border enforcement officials can actively respond to ensure public safety. The Exchange can help “quickly confirming the identity of someone that had their passport stolen” for example, Donato Colucci, Senior Regional Immigration and Border Management Specialist, International Organisation for Migration explained to GovInsider. The application of advanced biometrics will help countries tackle irregular migration, which can often be human trafficking, migrant smuggling, or other transnational crimes.

Now, governments no longer need to sacrifice citizen experience for basic security. The use of advanced biometrics enhances user experience, streamlines workflow and helps governments respond faster – all while improving public safety.

Image from Wikimedia