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“Smart eGate” Trial Imminent: Is this the beginning of the end for passports?
Identity Verification
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“Smart eGate” Trial Imminent: Is this the beginning of the end for passports?

Set to be trialled as early as this year, new smart eGates will negate the requirement for travellers entering the UK to present a physical passport, instead relying solely on facial recognition technology to confirm their identity.

In this article:

  • UK planning 'Smart eGates' at airports, relying on facial recognition, eliminating the need for physical passports. Trials set for this year.
  • New eGates access biometric data remotely, making physical passports redundant.
  • Dubai Airport's 'Seamless Travel' and global trends align with the UK's move towards facial recognition in identity verification.
  • The UK experienced increased acceptance of remote identity verification, driven in part thanks to COVID-19. Over 60% of consumers are willing to use facial recognition for verification.

The Dawn of "Smart eGates": Revolutionizing Border Control

According to a story recently published by The Times, the UK will take its first step towards creating a truly “Intelligent Border” with the adoption of AI-driven ‘Smart eGates’ at airports.

Set to be trialled as early as this year, the units will negate the requirement for travellers entering the UK to present a physical passport, instead relying solely on Facial Recognition technology to confirm those crossing the border are who they say they are.

Global Trends: Biometrics Transforming Travel

The use of this technology is of course not entirely radical. Current airport eGates already take advantage of your biometrics, only they access them by decrypting the chip embedded within your passport before comparing the obtained data with a live image of you when you peer into the camera.

The newer, or should I say “Smarter” eGates, will instead access your biometric data remotely via a centralised database, rendering the physical passport surplus to requirements.

The UK isn’t alone. As well as in some Australian airports, Dubai International Airport will soon roll out ‘Seamless Travel’ for its residents, leaning on the reliability of Biometrics to enable residents to breeze through the tiresome immigration process “in as little as five seconds”.

Facial Recognition in the UK: From Everyday Life to Airports

Although the UK will not likely extend its use of Face Rec to the degree Dubai and other Middle Eastern countries intend to just yet, (soon you’ll be able to buy your duty-free using only your face!), this change in how we travel is really just an extension of how Identity Verification (IDV) using biometrics is already being embraced and trusted by UK citizens.

Facial Recognition – that is, the unique measurements between various points on your face – has been in use in the UK in various forms for a number of years already, and not just by the police. In fact, UK providers of IDV are some of the world’s leaders in this field.

Embracing Change: UK Consumer Attitudes and Industry Shifts

The Covid-19 pandemic illustrated how far UK providers of IDV tech had come along in recent years, with many of us using their technology to seamlessly confirm our identities remotely using Facial Recognition and biometrics when thrust into lengthy lockdowns. Even when stuck at home for months on end, not much was out of reach for UK consumers.

It’s no surprise then that the news of passport-less eGates will likely be seen positively across the country. Research suggests that as a nation, we’re embracing this exciting tech faster than any other: According to biometricupdate.com, over 60% of UK consumers have expressed a willingness to be verified in this way, and that’s growing significantly.

Closer to home at FullCircl, we’re also seeing the shift. We’ve witnessed first-hand many of our clients, including banks and major insurance providers, modernise and fortify their approach to onboarding by adopting document verification and facial recognition checks when dealing with customers remotely. You can read more about how we help businesses onboard customers here

It’s clear to see that as a nation, we’re already embracing Facial Recognition in our everyday lives, and we’re already enjoying the benefits it can bring. I believe extending this to the airport is a natural step, and one I believe the UK will not only welcome, but raise the standards in.