Australian airports begin facial recognition rollout

Airports begin the switch to a “seamless” travelling process. Photo: ITN

Perth Airport has become Australia’s second international airport to begin installing new facial recognition smart gates, following an initial pilot trial introduced at Canberra Airport last year.

The Australian government has stated their intended goal is to automate 90% of air traveler processing by 2020, and is on track to replace passports with biometric capabilities after signing new contracts with technology vendors for a national rollout.


In January 2017, we published an article detailing new changes to airport processing that would see Australia’s Customs and Border Protection install 92 facial recognition terminals at international airports as part of an $18 million deal to replace passports with a “contactless” biometric identification system.

The Australian government first announced the pursuit of “a low-touch experience” for international travelers in 2015, the first step towards the government’s goal of automating 90% of air traveler processing by 2020.

According to a Minister of Home Affairs press statement released:

“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 … reducing manual processes allowing a fast, seamless self-processing experience for up to 90 per cent of travellers.”

In July last year, the federal government signed a $22.5 million deal with Portuguese border technology vendor Vision-Box to begin replacing all smart gates at airport arrivals around the country.

Facial recognition set to
replace passports at Australian airports

Since 2004, French multinational Morpho have 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, set to expire in 2019.

The new automated solution will use facial recognition to clear travellers much faster, matching individuals against facial images stored in airline passenger processing systems, rather than their passport chip.

Vision-Box’s automated border clearance platform is one of three initiatives under the Immigration department’s ‘seamless traveler’ initiative.

As reported in our 2017 article, the rollout will begin in 2019, and we are now beginning to see this.


Last week, Perth Airport became Australia’s second international airport to begin using new facial recognition biometrics, following the introduction in Canberra Airport early last year.

Both airports are the first in the country to receive new Vision-Box technology, that will eventually allow travelers to pass through without producing a passport, simply by using their face as identity.

Sydney Airport, in partnership with Qantas, also began testing biometric “couch-to-gate” security measures at airports gates last year, however this trial does not cover the entirety of the airport or of other airlines.

The project will also see incoming passenger card and exit processes replaced with automated technology, and integrated with a new Pega business process management system that will act as the central decision maker for border clearances.

Initial ‘face on the move’ passenger recognition technology trials using the automated solution last year correctly matched 94 percent of travelers without any identification errors.

Despite this, the smartgates will remain in ‘contact’ mode only, meaning travelers will still need to insert their passport in order to be processed through the gate for the time being.

According to reports, the “contactless mode” will be switched on at an undefined later date, with the Immigration Department not revealing any details on when this change will occur.

Second Aussie airport gets new
contactless arrivals smartgates

Many have suspected the program will remain dormant until proposed plans for a new national facial recognition system and accompanying database are completed, announced as part of a COAG meeting in 2017 to address ‘terrorism’ concerns.

Regardless, the rollout is underway, and within 12 months, all airport processing at international airports with be conducted with biometric identification – replacing the need for passports.

The Department of Home Affairs intends to deploy the smartgates at Brisbane Airport next, and to all international airports by the end of June 2020

A remaining 105 smartgates will be installed across Australia’s other international airports throughout the year.

We will keep all readers updated as this plan continues to develop.


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Facial recognition set to replace passports at Australian airports | TOTT News

Benefits for consumers, travellers and industry from red tape cuts and new technology | Minister of Home Affairs

Canberra airport smart gates first to go contactless | IT News

Second Aussie airport gets new contactless arrivals smartgates | IT News


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4 Comments on “Australian airports begin facial recognition rollout”

  1. Chris Atty
    February 21, 2019 at 13:47 #

    This is starting to get a little scary and unbelievable. Aren’t they trying to bring facial recognition into classrooms for attendance purposes?? After that it will be in your workplace, then the streets and then we will have our own version of social credit system… or am I being a bit over the top? 🙄

  2. DeQuincy
    February 25, 2019 at 17:01 #

    Bush announced the War on Tourism in 2001, but we all misinterpreted his accent and thought he said terrorism.


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