• United States



Airport security to include face-scanning fish in virtual aquarium tunnel

Oct 15, 20174 mins

Say good-bye to airport security lines, and say hello to Smart Tunnels. Dubai airport to use biometric-scanning tunnels for passport control.

It’s going to get freaky futuristic at the airport if you are in Dubai, with biometric-scanning Smart Tunnels for passport control and Tesla rides that weigh your luggage and deliver boarding passes.

Starting in 2018 at Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3, passengers will no longer need to stop at a security clearance counter to show their passports. Instead, travelers will pass through a first-of-its-kind biometric tunnel equipped with 80 face- and iris-scanning cameras hidden behind an immersive aquarium video. Details about the Smart Tunnel were revealed during the five-day Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) Technology week.

“It is the first of its kind in the world, and it’s a biometric system that allows passengers to simply walk through the tunnel without doing anything,” Major Khalid Al Felasi, assistant general director of Smart Services in GDRFA-Dubai, told Gulf News. “They don’t even need to show their passport. It works on face recognition technology, and the passenger can finish entry procedures within 15 seconds.”

Although the Smart Tunnel can display any number of videos, such as horses running through the desert, a flowered path surrounded by skyscrapers, or even advertisements, the virtual reality tunnel in Dubai airport will display an aquarium similar to the walk-through tunnels at large tourist-attraction aquariums.

“The fish are a sort of entertainment and something new for the traveler, but at the end of the day, it attracts the vision of the travelers to different corners in the tunnel for the cameras to capture his/her face print,” explained Major Gen. Obaid Al Hameeri, deputy director general of Dubai residency and foreign affairs. “The virtual images are of very high quality and give a simulation of a real-life aquarium.”

How the face-scanning, security aquarium works

At the start of the tunnel, a person is to stand and look up at the iris-scan camera before proceeding through. While the curved ceiling and sides will display the aquarium, the digital floorboard will first display the color red, which changes to green as the procedure finishes, approving that traveler. The total time from start to finish is 10 to 15 seconds. Not that I love all the biometric scanning, but just try to get through a TSA line in 15 seconds!

The National reported, “At the end of the tunnel, if the traveler is already registered, they will either receive a green message that says, ‘have a nice trip,’ or if the person is wanted for some reason, a red sign will alert the operations room to interfere.”

As for that registration, travelers are to first register their face scan at a kiosk. But the kiosks in airports are not the only way to register; it can also be done via smartphone during a Tesla ride to the airport.

Major Felasi told Gulf News the project will include Tesla electric cars to bring passengers to the airport, and passengers will be able to register their details during the ride.

He added, “The car will collect passengers’ information, including the weight of the luggage, on the way to the airport and will deliver the boarding pass in the car itself. It is all done by the smartphone.”

After arriving at the airport, “the luggage automatically goes through a smart system without the need to carry it through. The passenger can then proceed through the smart tunnel to finish passport control procedures in a few seconds.”

These are a few of the new security measures adopted by Dubai International Airport to combat terrorism. Another involves Chinese-made explosive detection scanners that reportedly can “detect a wider range of explosive materials.”

Additional Smart Tunnels are to be deployed at other terminals after the one at Terminal 3 launches next year. By 2020, over 124 million travelers are expected to pass through Dubai airports.

The video below downplays the number the biometric scanning cameras, mentioning only “more than 10 cameras,” while The National reported the tunnel will have about 80 cameras, with iris scanners to be added in the future.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.