Passengers secretly filmed in anti-terror trial

Sydney Morning Herald 01/06/03: Jim O'Rourke

Original Link:
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/01/04/1041566268528.html

Authorities are trialling concealed high-tech, computer-linked video cameras that can film the face of every passenger arriving in Australia at Sydney Airport to help identify terrorists and other undesirable travellers.

Customs is also testing a world-first computerised face-recognition system that scans the faces of all passengers as they present their passports.

As part of the security trial, cameras have been set up in the arrivals hall to scan for terrorists or criminals.

The cameras, which have wide-angle lenses, sweep across the faces of all arriving passengers and send the images to a computer which matches the faces with pictures of wanted people stored in its memory.

The computer uses a series of complicated algorithmic equations to help identify people by searching through its data base and instantly analysing a person's unique facial features, including eyes and face shape.

If the computer matches the face with that of a known person, the operator of the surveillance system receives a silent alarm and alerts officers that the person should bequestioned.

The computer is said to be able to identify a passport holder even if they change hairstyle, grow a beard or wear glasses.

Customs confirmed it had been holding the so-called face-in-the-crowd identification trials for several months, and that it is evaluating the results.

A customs spokesman said the cameras were not yet searching for undesirable passengers, but were being trialled using volunteers from the service who mingle with arriving passengers. The camera scans the crowds, trying to pick out the officers whose images have already been stored in the computer memory.

At the same time, customs is trialling the SmartGate face-recognition system, which uses the same computer software as the security-scan camera and is designed to ensure that a passport holder's image matches the person presenting the passport to authorities.

During the trial, which involves Qantas aircrew arriving back in Sydney, the passport holder places the document on an electronic scanner. At the same time, a camera scans the person's face and matches it against the photograph in the passport.

The computer also examines other security features of the passport, including visa stamps and immigration details.

Supplied by German company Cognitec, the system is designed to speed up passenger processing at border checkpoints. Cognitec boasts that passengers will be held up for a maximum of 10 seconds. If an accurate identity match is made, the passenger is automatically allowed through the customs barrier.

The company said the facial-recognition technology was the most natural and non-intrusive way to identify a person.

The customs spokesman said the service wanted to streamline passenger processing to help cope with expected increases in international passenger numbers in coming years.

In 2000-2001, there were about 17.9million passenger movements in and out of Australia.

The Customs Minister, Chris Ellison, said that similar security systems which identify hand geometry, fingerprints and the iris are being used successfully at major overseas airports, including Heathrow in London.

If the trial is successful, SmartGate is expected to be introduced to Sydney Airport by the end of this year before being rolled out at other capital-city airports.










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