29 September 2009

Australia immigration SmartGate more accurate than border officer

Australia's high-tech express passport system, SmartGate, is considered more accurate in most cases than a border protection officer says university professor.

Australia immigration

Australian Immigration SmartGate uses technology that reads the face proportions, which is unique and like a fingerprint.

SmartGate has been located in the passport control area in Sydney Airport's international terminal since July.

Passengers insert their ePassport and answer declaration questions using a touch screen at the small SmartGate computer kiosks, and the computer examines security features on the passport including visa stamps and immigration details.

SmartGate then issues a ticket, which the traveller takes to the SmartGate exit where their face is scanned by a camera and compared against the passport photo. If there is a positive face match, the ticket is then reissued, the gate opens and the passenger can go through to collect luggage and hand in the ticket and incoming passenger card at the Australian immigration desk.

SmartGate is currently available only to Australian and New Zealand citizens aged 18 and over with ePassports, but will be eventually available to citizens of other countries.

The system uses face-recognition technology to confirm the traveller's identity using the digitised image of the traveller stored in the ePassport, a process considered in most cases more effective than a Customs or border protection officer by Adelaide University Professor of anatomy Maciej Henneberg.

"Biometric [facial-recognition systems] are nearly as good as fingerprints. They measure distances between points on the face, usually the eyes, mouth and nose, and the proportion of those measurements is unique for each human," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

The professor also said there will always be a need for Australian immigration officers to identify travellers whose appearances have changed.

An Australian Customs and Border Protection Service spokeswoman said the system allows travellers to move through passport control faster.

"SmartGate has been developed to help process the increasing number of international arrivals … while maintaining existing standards of border protection,'' she said.

"While [it] was not designed to facilitate quicker processing, it does provide more processing points, allowing the processing of more travellers within the same floor space."

SmartGate began operating in July after a three-year trial at Sydney and Melbourne airports.

 The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with Australia immigration and their Australia visa applications.

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