ICA have begun trials on new iris and facial scan system for immigration clearance at Tuas Checkpoint

(Image screenshot from video by Straits Times)

A new trial for contactless immigration clearance has begun at the Tuas Checkpoint, said the Immigration Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on 15 April.

This new system can identify travellers via iris and facial scans, forgoing the need for them to present their passports and scan their thumbprints at the checkpoint. The trial, which began on 8 April at one of the automated lanes for bus arrivals, is open to Singaporean citizens aged 6 and above whose passports begin with the letter K and were issued after 1 January 2019.

Travellers won’t need to sign-up beforehand to use the new system. Simply walk on through and follow the instructions. However, travellers are reminded not to wear sunglasses or head gear that will obstruct their faces from the scanners.

The ICA is encouraging eligible citizens to participate in the trial to help improve the system. If successful, ICA plans to roll out the system to all immigration check points.

Superintendent Derrick Soong, 41, who is head of operations development in the ICA, told Straits Time that Singaporeans who have previously enrolled with iris images with the ICA will be the first group to participate in the trial, adding that the ICA now has a sizeable database of iris images to conduct a meaningful trial.

Image from ICA

Here’s  a brief explanation as to the new system works: When travellers enter the automated lane designated for the trial, they will be prompted to look at the facial and iris scanning system which will capture images and subsequently proceed to verify their identity. Once the screen indicated full clearance, the exit gate will open.

“The contactless immigration system will enhance operational efficiency, yet maintain our high standards of traveller identity verification and security, and is a significant step towards ICA’s vision of an efficient and hassle-free immigration clearance experience using biometric solutions,” added ICA in a statement.

ICA has announced before this that they were testing out this iris-scan technology in August last year at Woodlands Checkpoint, Tuas Checkpoint and Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.

Apart from testing the accuracy and efficiency of this new system, the trial will also be used to assess the time taken for immigration clearance, said Supt Soong.

“This clearance process will definitely be faster and bring convenience to travellers, as there is no need to present and scan passports,” he said, adding that based on ground observations, Singaporeans who used the automated lanes will be cleared within a minute.

“But if there’s no need to present and scan passports, the timing will be even shorter,” Supt Soong told The Straits Times.

They’re also looking at how environmental factors such as ambient lighting will affect the facial and iris matching system.

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