An international registered traveller trial has been set up using biometrics to fast track pre-enrolled passengers through airports in the UK, Hong Kong and Dubai.
Using a card – and possibly an ePassport in the future – passengers who volunteer to sign up for the trial will be able to pass through immigration using just a biometric, speeding up their passage through London Heathrow Airport (Terminal yet to be decided), or the main international airports in Hong Kong or Dubai.
The trial is due to begin towards the end of this year and will involve an estimated 3,000 people, 1,000 from each of the three airports involved. Each of these participants will provide 10 fingerprints, two irises and their facial image, a spokesperson at the UK’s Home Office told SDW.
Although the architecture of the system has yet to be finalised, it is likely that the system will store the passengers’ enrolled biometrics in a central database. The passengers’ cards will be used to provide information on where the cardholder’s biometrics are located within that database.
The trial is being developed by the Simplifying Passenger Travel Interest Group (SPTIG), led by the International Airport Transport Associate (IATA).
The Home Office told SDW that, despite the trial starting by the end of the year, it is still very much at the design phase and no procurement exercise has yet begun. It also stressed that there is no fixed end goal for the project, meaning that it is being conducted to try and understand the pitfalls and potential benefits of such a system, where data will be shared across international borders. Once the trial is completed, the relevant parties will take stock of the lessons learned before taking decisions on how to move forward, if at all, with a wider implementation.
Speaking in Hong Kong earlier this week, UK Immigration and Nationality Directorate, Director of Border Control Tony Smith said: "The trial will draw together government and private industry to work collaboratively in testing the application of the latest biometric technologies to simplify existing procedures to enhance the security of the airport and the efficiency of border control."