Dubai: Around two million UAE residents and citizens have registered for the Smart Gate service at Dubai airports, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) announced at the launch of the mobile Smart Gate registration booth at The Dubai Mall on Wednesday.

The mobile booth, which is operational at the Souk Atrium until August 18, gives residents a chance to register for the Smart Gate service free-of-charge. Once registered, travellers can bypass the long lines at passport control, clearing the immigration process at Dubai airports within seconds.

“We had an incredible turnout on the first day of the mobile registration booth,” Maj Gen Obaid Muhair Bin Surour, Deputy Director of the GDRFA, said. “Most of them were Asian and Western expatriates,” he added.

There are no prerequisites for the registration. Residents can register by submitting their passport information and biometrics (fingerprints and eye scan). Maj Gen Bin Surour said implementing the Smart Gate system at Dubai airports cost approximately Dh100 million. However, he noted that the benefits far outweigh the costs.

“The system which is operational now at Dubai airports is the second generation of the e-gate,” he said, “The first generation of the e-gate was introduced in 2002. The second generation Smart Gate is a lot faster and more efficient. It takes an average of 12 seconds to clear a passenger.”

Dubai International Airport was the first in the region to implement the e-gate system, and the third airport in the world to do so.

Maj Gen Bin Surour said Smart Gate registration could previously only be done at the airport. However, recently, the GDRFA and Emaratech have introduced the mobile registration booth in public places to facilitate the service.

“Almost 30 per cent of the population is registered for the service,” he said. “All this comes as a step closer to developing Dubai as a ‘smart city’. As such, all government processes and procedures are expedited and streamlined for our residents.”

Thani Abdullah Al Zafein, director-general and board member of tech major Emaratech, said a new generation of a traveller verification system was in the pipeline.

“The one in use now can clear an immigration process in about eight to 12 seconds. A new generation of smart gates will be implemented in the near future,” he said. “The new generation of smart gates will be even faster and will be able to simultaneously scans documents and irises. Passengers will almost be able to walk through the verification system without stopping.”

Al Zafein also mentioned plans to implement a smartphone app, which will act as a passenger guide through the airport processes leading up to boarding.

“We have to think from a passenger’s perspective when thinking about innovation at airports,” he said. “Generally, periods of waiting unnerve passengers the most. The trick is to turn unoccupied time to occupied time. The Smart Traveller is the next generation.”