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Final tests for facial recognition tech at Changi Airport's new T4

SINGAPORE — Over the next few weeks, some passengers taking selected flights will get to test the use of facial recognition technology at Changi Airport’s new Terminal 4 (T4), by trying out the self-service options for bag-drop, immigration and boarding.

Final tests for facial recognition tech at Changi Airport's new T4

The automated check-in kiosks and automated bag-drop machines at the departure hall at the new Terminal 4 at Changi Airport. The date for its official opening will be decided after the trials show satisfactory results. Photo: Nuria Ling

SINGAPORE — Over the next few weeks, some passengers taking selected flights will get to test the use of facial recognition technology at Changi Airport’s new Terminal 4 (T4), by trying out the self-service options for bag-drop, immigration and boarding.

This is part of the final phase of tests and trials that Changi Airport Group (CAG) has been conducting since last October to ensure smooth operations at the new terminal, the group said yesterday.

The date for T4’s official opening will be decided after the trials show satisfactory results, but it is expected to be sometime later this year.

The automated processes being tested are known as Fast and Seamless Travel (Fast) options, and CAG aims to have at least a pair of arrival and departing flights from nine airlines taking part, namely Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, Korean Air, Spring Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and four airlines under the AirAsia Group. They will eventually operate from the new terminal when it opens.

The facial recognition technology will authenticate each passenger’s identity, in what is a first for the airport.

How it works is, a photo of the passenger will be captured at the automated bag-drop counter and matched against his or her photo in the passport before the luggage is accepted and moved into the baggage handling system.

The passenger’s photo will be taken again at the automated immigration gates, which uses a dual facial and thumbprint recognition system. Again, this will be matched against the photo in the passport.

Before boarding the aircraft, the passenger can use the automated boarding gate by scanning his or her boarding pass and a photo will be snapped. The facial recognition system will match this photo against the one taken at the immigration gate before letting the passenger through the gate.

In terms of security, the facial recognition technology is more robust because it removes the repetitive task of matching faces, and staff members can focus on identifying suspicious characters in the airport.

With the Fast options, the airport and airlines can also cut their deployed manpower by 10 to 20 per cent.

More than 100 trials have been conducted so far — through passenger self-service processes, GST refund, for instance — involving more than 2,000 volunteers and more than 1,000 airport personnel.

Fast options have also been rolled out in phases at the airport’s three terminals since 2015.

Cathay Pacific and AirAsia, which will be moving to T4, have also been piloting the automated check-in kiosks and bag-drop machines at Terminal 1, where they now operate.

Construction works on T4 began in early 2014 and were completed last December.

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