Facial recognition set to replace passports at Australian airports


Australians will fly using their face in the near future. Photo: NPR

Australia’s Customs and Border Protection will install 92 facial recognition terminals in international airports as part of an $18 million deal to replace passports with a “contactless” biometric identification system.

The program will see all international passengers processed by biometric recognition of the face, iris or fingerprints, incoming paper passenger cards abolished, and manned stations replaced by electronic stations and automatic triage.

The next generation trial is part of the Australian government’s pursuit of “a low-touch experience” for international travelers called ‘Seamless Traveller‘, the first step towards the government’s goal of automating 90% of air traveler processing by 2020.


According to Fairfax, the Australian government will see the roll out of new technology, including smart gates, at air and sea ports:

The changes were announced on the website of Minister of Border Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton:

“Seamless Traveller will see $93.7 million spent over the next five years for rollout of next generation automated biometric processing at major air and sea ports.

Biometric capability will reduce manual processes allowing a fast, seamless self-processing experience for up to 90 per cent of travellers and enable border control officers to concentrate on passengers-of-interest.”

Customs envisioned the concept of smart gates in 2002 and awarded Morpho, a French multinational division of Safran, a contract to bring the idea to life in 2004.

Morpho have since installed smart gate biometric technology in Australian, New Zealand and British airports, allowing citizens to go through immigration processing without input from a Customs official.

They have delivered 61 electronic gates at arrival terminals in Australia as part of a $53 million agreement with border security, due to continue until 2019.

Despite the agreement, officials have announced that current gates will be retired as part of a new ‘contactless’ system, replacing technology introduced by Morpho that allows passports to be scanned electronically.


The gates will be replaced by the ‘Vision Box Machine’, designed by Portuguese biometrics specialists Vision Box, which uses facial recognition technology to match travelers to their passports, under the final stages of a $8.4 million, two-year trial of the competing technologies.

Related: Queensland announces trials to replace public transport cards with facial recognition

Related: National facial recognition ‘incompatible with a free society’, privacy groups warn

Dr John Coyne, head of border security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says the system intends to filter incoming passengers through a corridor, rather than individual gates, where their biometrics are captured and checked without the passenger ever stopping.

“Biometrics are now going in leaps and bounds. Our ability to harness the power of big data is increasing exponentially.

The long-term vision of the most senior immigration bureaucrats is to streamline the arrivals process so international passengers could literally just walk out like at a domestic airport.

I think it could be a world first.”

The department wants to pilot the technology in July at Canberra Airport, which handles limited flights to Singapore and Wellington. It would be introduced at a major airport such as Sydney or Melbourne in November, with the roll out completed by March 2019.


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Australian schools are now implementing biometric identification technology:

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‘World first’ – Government moves to radically overhaul Australia’s international airports:

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3 Comments on “Facial recognition set to replace passports at Australian airports”

  1. January 22, 2017 at 19:32 #

    Reblogged this on Real News Australia.

  2. January 25, 2017 at 07:59 #

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.


  1. Facial recognition set for Sydney transport network | The Crazz Files - July 16, 2019

    […] The Australian government has stated their intended goal is to automate 90% of air traveller processing by 2020, and is on track to replace passports with facial recognition capabilities. […]

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