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Photo of Immigration at Changi Airport from Shutterstock

ICA to implement new multi-biometrics system at checkpoints starting April next year

A new scanning system which will include the use of two additional biometric markers, namely facial recognition and iris recognition, will be introduced by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) in April next year at all checkpoints.

The addition of the new biometric identifiers will eliminate the problem of the inability of the current system - the enhanced-Immigration Automated Clearance System (eIACS) - to "accurately read fingerprints that are faint" or "scarred" due to factors such as genetics or aging.

In a statement on Monday (12 Nov), ICA said: "With the BioScreen-Multi Modal Biometric Screening System, travellers can be authenticated using any of the three biometric identifiers.

"This will enable more efficient immigration clearance for travellers who may face difficulties using their fingerprints."

The authority added: "A robust biometrics database of travellers, comprising facial images, fingerprint and iris, will be useful for post-incident investigation and data analytics purposes in the event of a security incident."

With the new system, travellers are required to place two thumbs on a fingerprint scanner and, at the same time, look at a camera which will scan their faces and eyes after handing over their passports or placing their passports on the scanner at the automated gates.

Once the process is succesfully completed, a green tick will be shown on a screen.

In response to questions regarding whether the new system will affect clearance time, ICA said: "As part of the trial, we will try to fine-tune the final outcome to achieve a more effective clearance process."

Currently, the new multi-biometric system is being trialled at manual and automated counters at the Woodlands, Tuas and Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal checkpoints.

Existing use of facial recognition currently present in security cameras at Woodlands Checkpoint 

Since 2012, the ICA has been able to identify wanted persons through facial recognition cameras situated at entrances and immigration counters at Woodlands Checkpoint.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lian Lee Siong revealed on Monday (12 Nov) that over "280,000 travellers pass through Woodlands Checkpoint every day," and that the facial recognition system has enabled the ICA to "process large volumes of passengers more efficiently and securely."

Plans to install such cameras at other checkpoints such as the ones at Changi Airport are underway.

The facial recognition cameras have also been used as a part of heightened security measures preceding the ongoing ASEAN Summit, as well as other major events like the Trump-Kim summit.

Mobile and body-worn cameras attached to Home Team officers also contain facial recognition technology

Mobile cameras containing facial recognition technology are frequently used during large-scale events such as festivities, where a wanted person could possibly be present according to previous information and records.

Such cameras, which have been used in several Home Team operations since July last year, can easily be set up within 10 minutes, and have the capacity to send alerts to the mobile phones of officers via a secure wireless network.

Body-worn cameras equipped with facial recognition technology are utilised in situations where it is not possible to be stationary such as in a moving vehicle or in low-light conditions.

Such cameras are connected to officers' mobile phones, and are able to match faces to a remote database immediately.

"The body-worn cameras allow roving officers on patrol within the checkpoints to accurately and swiftly detect persons-of-interest before they reach the immigration counters," according to ICA.