No need to scan passports in trial at Changi's T4

For the T4 trial, ICA has incorporated a dynamic graphical user interface (GUI) to make the overall experience more intuitive and easily understandable for travellers.
For the T4 trial, ICA has incorporated a dynamic graphical user interface (GUI) to make the overall experience more intuitive and easily understandable for travellers.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Returning Singaporeans involved in the trial can verify their identity with iris and facial recognition instead

Some returning Singaporeans at Changi Airport Terminal 4 no longer need to produce their passports to clear immigration in a six-month trial that uses iris and facial recognition for identity verification.

Similar to a recently concluded trial at Tuas Checkpoint, travellers simply need to look at a scanner, which will employ iris and facial recognition to verify their identity.

The contactless immigration clearance is quicker than the current passport-and-thumbprint system. Some travellers experience problems with fingerprint verification because ageing, dryness or scarring can make their fingerprints hard to read.

The trial began on Nov 25 and is open to only Singapore citizens aged six and above who hold passports issued after Jan 1 last year that have numbers beginning with the letter "K".

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), which is running the trial, said that travellers using the contactless immigration clearance lane should remove sunglasses, caps or other headgear that could obstruct their eyes or face when passing through the lanes.

At Terminal 4, ICA will dedicate one lane each to test two methods of clearance.

The first allows a second traveller in the queue to start the screening process before the traveller ahead of him has completed the process.

The second method requires the first traveller to complete the process before the next is screened.

Both systems will be compared for feasibility, efficiency and accuracy.

Superintendent Tan Kah Wee, 44, who heads ICA's New Clearance Concept office, said the two systems are "more efficient" than the passport-and-thumbprint system.

  • >22,500

    Number of Singaporean travellers who were processed in the Tuas Checkpoint trial; ICA said 90 per cent cleared immigration smoothly.

  • >400,000 

    Number of travellers who pass through Singapore's two land checkpoints in Tuas and Woodlands a day; about 280,000 use the Woodlands Checkpoint.

 
 
 
 

More than 22,500 Singaporean travellers were processed in the Tuas Checkpoint trial, ICA said, with 90 per cent clearing immigration smoothly.

The remaining 10 per cent had difficulties stemming from unfamiliarity with the scanning process.

For the Terminal 4 trial, ICA has incorporated a dynamic graphical user interface, developed with the Home Team Science and Technology Agency, to make the overall experience more intuitive and easily understood for travellers.

When The Straits Times was at Terminal 4 last week to see the new system in action, it was observed that travellers generally cleared the immigration process more quickly than those in the passport-and-thumbprint lanes.

Ms Margaret Lau, 63, who works in administration, said she preferred using facial recognition, as her dry fingers sometimes caused problems. She said she had to remove her spectacles, which she said was a hassle, but she found the process quicker.

Student Muhammad Raif found the new system smooth and fast. "All I had to do was look at the camera," said the 18-year-old.

The trial is aimed at improving handling of the growing volume of travellers passing through Singapore's checkpoints. Changi Airport handled 65.6 million passengers last year, a 5.5 per cent increase from 2017.

More than 400,000 travellers pass through Singapore's two land checkpoints in Tuas and Woodlands a day, with about 280,000 using the Woodlands Checkpoint.

ICA said the automated border control system, involving next-generation automated lanes like the ones in the Tuas and Terminal 4 trials, will gradually be opened to foreign visitors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2019, with the headline 'No need to scan passports in trial at Changi's T4'. Print Edition | Subscribe