Australian passports could get voice recognition, eye-scanning tech

By David Flynn, November 26 2013
Australian passports could get voice recognition, eye-scanning tech

Passport checkpoints at Australian airports may eventually resemble something from a top-secret bunker – or at least the Hollywood version of same – with eye-scanning screens and voiceprint identification.

The federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is putting together a new 'biometrics advisory panel' which will investigate "other biometric technologies" beyond the current facial recognition, according to a DFAT request for tender made public this week.

On the new tech list are "additional biometrics such as voice", the tender document reveals.

Companies looking to get a piece of the biometric action must have expertise in facial, fingerprint, iris or voice biometrics or signature-reading technology, according to the tender specs, as well as being able to provide equipment such as fingerprint scanners, iris scanners and voice acquisition devices.

All current Australian passports rely on facial recognition technology, with a digital copy of the photo stored in the passport's smartchip and matched against another which is stored in an Australian passport database.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 526

Let's hope it is more reliable than the current facial recognition technology. I can't begin to tell you how often I use the Smartgate and it tells me it can't process me. Very annoying when you then have to queue up!

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2540

AusFlyer: I found the trick is to mimic my facial expression on the passport photo when having my 'happy snap' taken at the Smartgate. The trick is that I am wearing a slight friendly smile in my passport photo, so unless I adopt that same slight smile the Smartgate rejects me!

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 526

Thanks for the tip David... I will give it a go next week and see if it works. It was working okay for the first half of this year but the last few trips it hasn't worked. I was trying to work out if I had put on weight or something!!

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2540

It's very sensitive to small changes, due to the way the software works - it identifies specific points on your face and then maps the distance between those, for instance. In my shot, a slight smile vs no smile is a pass/fail, ditto for the slight angle on my head - if I hold my head up too straight and too 'formal' I'm rejected, but holding it so slightly down/angled with that light smile and I get the green light.

That'll teach me for wanting a slightly friendly passport snap. Next time I'll go for the usual non-smiling mugshot which is easier to replicate, especially after you've stepped off an overnight flight in economy!


22 Oct 2012

Total posts 316

Last time I went for a passport photo the operator was very careful to caution me NOT to smile for the camera.  That suits me, for I'm in no mood to smile after a 24 hr flight arriving at SYD at 5 am.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 733

Interesting. I'd always assumed there was some guy off in some booth somewhere comparing photos, I didn't realise the whole thing was automated.

The auto-booth has never rejected me, but maybe my face is so darn ugly that even a computer can't confuse it with anything else.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1377


I am 100% (at least 12 uses) at Smartgate. Have a pretty flat facial expression on my passport photo.

18 Jul 2013

Total posts 27

Until last week, facial recognition has never worked for me (10+ attempts).  I usually wear glasses but took them off for my passport photo (not sure but I think I was asked to?).  So I take my glasses off at the Smartgate, too, but to no avail.  And then last week I went to Auckland for the first time in years and went to one of their Smartgates.  Forgot all about my glasses and left them on.  'Snap' and open sesame - it worked!  Came back through Sydney and again I left my glasses on and again, it worked!  Will be interesting to see what the panel comes up - let's hope it's more consistent than the current technology.

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