The biometric equipment is being tested at the Emirates Business Class check-in area, Terminal 3, Dubai airport. Image Credit: Emirates

Dubai: Everyone is absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.

Now, software has advanced so much it can even differentiate between identical twins, say, when facial recognition is used as smartphone signature.

So, it turns out, with the right technology, even the so-called “identical twins” are not really identical. They may share the same general features, but with today’s technology, minute differences in facial contours are known in milliseconds.

That knowledge, the ability to tell the difference, happens in a snap.

From facial recognition, which facilitates passport-less border checks, to smart gates, the use of biometrics has significantly improved in recent years, thus making travel a breeze.

They’re used right here in the UAE. This makes the country a world pioneer in the use of this technology in facilitating border checks.

For the authorities and people running the system, there’s a complex process and spaghetti of codes running the system. But it's design for you, the traveler, to ease your life at border checks.

The result is rather simple — a happier travel.

Here’s how biometrics technology is being applied in the UAE today and how you can make the most out of it:

Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) 

From check-in to aircraft boarding, passengers traveling through Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) can now do so in a breeze.

The Abu Dhabi “Smart Travel” initiative has been implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Interior and Abu Dhabi Police, allows passengers to check-in and move through immigration and security, interacting only with innovative technology.

Smart travel allows you to check-in and board the aircraft without having any human contact.

How it works:

  • To use the ‘Smart Travel’ system, sign up at one of the E-Registration kiosks in place at AUH
  • You can register at any time, not only on the day of travel.
  • The registration allows you to use the E-Border Gates on departure and arrival, in line with the validity of your visa.
  • E-Border Gates validate your passport data using facial recognition features and other secure specifications that allow for safe onward travel.

Smart travel allows you to check-in and board the aircraft without having any human contact.

e-Border Abu Dhabi
E-Border Gates validate your passport data using facial recognition features and other secure specifications that allow for safe onward travel. Image Credit: File

What's in it for you:

“Smart Travel” decreases processing times within AUH by up to 70 per cent, which means less time in queues and more time to shop, dine and unwind.

Dubai International Airport (DXB)

At the on-going Gitex Technology Week (it runs until Thursday, October 10) Dubai has announced that passengers will no longer need a passport or boarding pass to travel from the emirate, using the latest biometric system.

Dubbed as the "Biometric Passenger Journey", the system is expected to ease travel through Dubai airports, thanks to facial recognition technology.

Biometric camera
Facial and iris recognition biometric equipment at the terminal. Image Credit: Emirates

Smart Gates system, on the other hand, is already in full use at DXB. It only needs you to ensure you have your Emirates ID.

How to use Smart Gates (DXB):

  • If you’re a UAE resident, remember to bring your Emirates ID next time you're travelling through DXB
  • Go through one of the 68 Smart Gates, located in arrivals and departures across all 3 terminals at DXB
  • Use your Emirates ID in the correct slot at the kiosk
  • Speed through passport control in a matter of seconds

What's in it for you: The Smart Gate system, integrated with the Emirates Identity Authority, is the first-of-its-kind in the region, improving security as well as convenience for both UAE Nationals and Residents at the world's busiest international airport. It’s completely free to use and no registration is required for Emirates ID cardholders — just scan and go.

Sharjah International Airport (SHJ)

You can use the Smart Gates at Sharjah Airport to pass through immigration, quickly and easily.

Register for free with your passport at any Smart Gates registration counter inside the airport.

How to use Smart Gates (Sharjah): 

  • Place your passport photo page on the e-reader
  • Scan your boarding pass facing the barcode towards the e-reader (departing passengers only)
  • Place your luggage next to you (remove any spec/hats/caps)
  • Look at the camera
  • Once procedure is complete, Smart Gate opens and proceed with your journey.

What’s in it for you: Just register for free and get through immigration checks quicker, easier. This will give you more time to enjoy a wide range of entertainment, restaurants, cafes and shops. It also allows the airport and airlines to accelerate the flow of traffic, increasing the capacity of existing infrastructure.

What is facial recognition technology?

It is the next level of border identification technology being tested in different countries, including the UAE.

Face recognition technology identifies or authenticates individuals by comparing their face against a database of known faces. The process can be broken down into 3 general steps:

  • The computer finds the face in the image.
  • A numeric representation of the face is created based on the relative position, size and shape of facial features.
  • The numeric "map" of the face in the image is compared to database images of previously identified faces, for example, an ePassport photograph database.

The computer finds the face in the image.

The use of facial recognition system helps confirm or discover a person’s identity. This technology can be used to check whether an individual has submitted a passport application under more than one name.

Other uses include medical identity theft and healthcare fraud protection, facility or equipment access control or workforce management employee identification.

How does it increase border and airport efficiency?

Facial recognition technology allows border control agents to automate passport checks — thus providing immigration officials the opportunity to concentrate on other important activities.

Why is it favoured by border authorities?

Facial recognition is a "passive" ID system.

Compared to other forms of biometric identification, facial recognition is often favored than other methods such as fingerprinting for border control.

The facial-recognition devices used to take traveler images do not require any physical contact — thus helping increase their acceptability among travelers.

Why is biometrics technology the wave of the future?

In a word: Convenience. With facial recognition, your face is your passport.

A CCTV display using the facial-recognition system Face in Beijing Image Credit: For The Washington Post

Facial recognition technology, developed over many years, has advanced incredibly fast, thanks to superfast graphics processing units (GPUs) that have come down in price — and "cloud" database security. 

This identification management is transforming border ID technology and the whole gamut of travel trade.

The result: A massive reduction in the time it takes to do identification checks. This frees up border officers from data entry and examining passengers’ travel documents to do actual border check and security job.

For travelers, it significantly enhances the total experience.

Have a nice journey!