Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport gets fully automated facial recognition system.

Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport gets fully automated facial recognition system. Source: Shutterstock

Shanghai airport bets big on facial recognition

FACIAL RECOGNITION is theoretically a very useful technology, however, it’s success depends on several factors such as the algorithm, the database used to train the algorithm, and the hardware used for the implementation.

Recently, reports such as the one that claimed that the Welsh police facial recognition software had a 92 percent fail rate incited fear and mistrust in the technology, however, it seems as though other countries such as China and the US and finding facial recognition quite useful.

Most recently, Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport said it has made significant investments in the technology. Specifically, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, it now boasts of self-service kiosks for flight and baggage check-in, security clearance, and boarding, all powered by facial recognition.

China is so confident of the technology that it is working quickly to deploy the same solutions at its international airports in Beijing and Nanyang city.

“It is the first time in China to achieve self-service for the whole check-in process,” said Zhang Zheng, General Manager of the Ground Services Department for Spring Airlines, the first airline to adopt the system at Hongqiao International Airport. At the moment, the facility is only available to Chinese identity cardholders.

According to Spring Airlines,  passengers have already embraced automated check-in as the new process can cut down check-in times to less than a minute and a half.

In the US, where the technology is trusted by the country’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) department, it has proved useful — and impressed authorities.

The technology, within the first three weeks, intercepted two imposters traveling on fraudulent documents. A 26-year-old woman, who arrived on a flight from Accra, Ghana Saturday morning, presented a U.S. passport to a CBP officer for admission as a returning citizen.

Utilizing the new facial comparison technology, the CBP officer established that the traveler was not a match to the passport and referred her for further examination. A secondary examination confirmed that the traveler was a Ghanaian citizen and an impostor to the U.S. passport.

Prior to that, officers utilizing the facial comparison technology intercepted an imposter who was attempting to enter the United States using a French passport. A search revealed the man’s authentic Republic of Congo identification card concealed in his shoe.

Currently, the CBP is testing biometric exit at 15 major airports across the United States. CBP has also implemented facial comparison technology for arrivals processing at 14 locations.

From the looks of it, the technology is making headway in airports and border security and might soon become something that other airports in Asia — especially Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia start using at scale.