Qantas Frequent Flyers were the first group of public travelers to test Australia’s SmartGate customs processing technology as part of a $3.1 million extension to the program announced by the Australian government, the Australian Press reported.
Customs Minister Chris Ellison said SmartGate, an automated border self-processing system, would now include enrolled Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyers returning from overseas.
The Australian Customs Service had been testing face-recognition technology for passport processing at Sydney and Melbourne airports.
Ellison said the system had been tried out on international air crews at Sydney International Airport since November 2002 and Melbourne Airport since September 2004.
Frequent Flyers who volunteered for the trial were photographed and their facial features digitally measured on enrollment in the trial.
At the customs desk their passports are scanned and a new photograph taken, which is compared with the image stored on the customs data base.
Ellison said the system was highly accurate and would radically cut passport processing times.
“We estimate it to be in excess of 99 percent accurate, and of course, it has that added benefit of speed – 17 seconds or less in the processing of passports,” he said.
“All of this spells increased border security for this country and of course increased efficiency. We want people coming to Australia and Australians who travel internationally to enjoy a more streamlined process at airports such as Melbourne.”
More than 180,000 people have been processed through SmartGate since the trial began.