EXCLUSIVE | Passport-scanning SmartGates will be removed from the arrivals area of Australian airports in a bid to shorten queues and streamline passenger flow, while incoming passenger cards are also likely to be abandoned.
Taking their place: a sophisticated contactless system using smart-chipped passports and biometric identity checks with the aim of delivering what the Department of Immigration and Border Protection calls a 'seamless traveller' experience.
The automated processing points would allow incoming passengers to be recognised using ‘contactless’ technology and “without the need to put down a passport,’ according to the DIBP.
Providing an extra layer of security to this tap-and-go scenario would be biometric scans of a traveller’s face, fingerprints and retina.
Canberra to see pilot trial
The Government agency expects to trial the new system at Canberra Airport in June 2017 (with just four international Singapore Airlines flights a week, Canberra makes an ideal test-bed).
It will then be extended to Australia’s other international airports from September 2017 to March 2019.
“A key objective is to work towards 90% of travellers presenting to an automated border control processing point by 2020,” the department says.
The demanding criteria for these next-generation processing points have been detailed in a Request for Tender published this week by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
A smarter SmartGate
According to the tender documents the new processing points would “replace the existing arrivals SmartGates and kiosk process and provide a seamless minimal contact process for arriving travellers.”
The project also has scope to make redundant the ‘Exit Point Marshall’ officers who sight and sign incoming passenger cards before directing travellers to a baggage inspection or exit lane.
Also for the axe: those little paper tickets issued by SmartGate machines, with the tender requiring that the system “must not include a printed token” – in short, an entirely paperless arrivals process.
“Each year, Australian Border Force officers process more than 35 million travellers through Australian air and seaports and this number is expected to continue to rise,” a spokesperson from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection told Australian Business Traveller.
“Automated processing technology provides a simpler process for travellers while maintaining the security of our border. It also enables the ABF to meet the challenges of increasing traveller numbers.”
Using apps and IFE systems?
One way of cutting down the arrivals queue would be to allow travellers to enter some of the necessary information before they arrive, with the tender document rating as ‘highly desirable’ the ability to “collect necessary information from… inflight entertainment systems.”
Another possibility flagged in the tender: “remote/mobile processing of travellers, with the use of handheld devices” such as smartphones “to submit responses to questions prior to primary border clearance.”
The new checkpoints themselves will include a ‘biometric capture device… including but not limited to facial, iris and fingerprints… but may also include passport reader, sensors, lights, display devices and physical obstructions to prevent a traveller from crossing the border.”
A touchscreen would call up what the document describes as “4 -5 minimum legally required questions,” and not only support multiple languages but automatically switch languages based on the passport presented.
For example, presenting a Japanese passport would see the screen’s user interface and language change to Japanese and possibly accompanied by pre-recorded voice prompts in Japanese.