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Australia set to replace passports with biometrics

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Australia set to replace passports with biometrics

February 2017

Australia is set to bring in biometric technology so the vast majority of its 35 million annual visitors enter the country’s airports without the need for paper passports, identity cards or engaging with border control agents.

In a call inviting private companies to bid to work on the project, Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection announced it is to develop its existing ‘Seamless Traveler’ programme to improve the current process for arriving travellers at its international airports.

It’s thought the technologies that could be introduced include face and voice recognition, fingerprint, iris scanning and gait pattern analysis.

By 2020, Australia wants 90 per cent of its millions of annual visitors to ‘self-process’ using paperless automated technologies rather than paper passports and having to deal with border agents.

In its tender document the government calls for bids to help “supply, implement and maintain a replacement Australian Border Control solution that will eliminate the need for physical tickets and have the ability to process travellers using ‘contactless’ technology, removing the need for some travellers to present their passport”.

While countries including the UAE and Singapore have brought in similar technologies at some airports, it’s thought that touchless biometric scanning at all of Australia’s international airports would be a first.

“Automated processing technology provides a simpler process for travelers while maintaining the security of our borders,” an immigration control spokeswoman said. “It enables the Australian Border Forces to meet the challenges of increasing traveller numbers.”

This is not to say that Australia doesn’t already have paperless border control technology - its SmartGates technology at eight of its international airports allow people to enter the country by using epassport information and facial recognition technology to conduct checks that would usually be performed by a border force officer.

But under the new proposals the SmartGates system would be retired to allow for more sophisticated biometric tech to be brought in.

It was reported that Australia’s immigration department plans to trial the technology in July this year at Canberra Airport, then another major airport in November before a complete roll-out by March 2019.

Australia's Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, said the aim was for the majority of visitors to avoid paperwork or manual processing by staff when coming into the country.

"In many cases that will mean people, whilst they'll still have to carry their passport, may not have to present their passport at all in the long term," he told ABC News.

"But in the immediate term, this will make it easier, it will make it quicker, for people going in and out of our airports.

"Already we know from the money we've invested into biometrics collections that that is a much more reliable collection than we have with people just scanning manually passports," he added.

"So there is the ability through this technology to improve detections of people that might be coming into our country to do the wrong thing."

Ploughshare has various biometric-based technologies available for license.

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