I have lost count at the amount of hours wasted stuck in passport control – but the end may be nigh for such delays if UK start-up ObjectTech has anything to do about it.
The British startup has just signed an agreement with the Dubai government to launch the world’s first ‘biometric border’.
The pilot project will enable passengers travelling to Dubai to step off the plane and walk straight to baggage reclaim – without having to stop at passport control. Instead, passengers will walk through a short tunnel in which a three dimensional scan of a person’s face is able to instantly check them into the country from an entirely digital passport.
The biometric border system creates an entirely digital passport for each individual, with the passport holding data currently stored on chips in existing e-passports. However, the digital passport will also be able to include other data sets like fingerprints, iris scans and facial recognition data. The end product, a result of advances in LIDAR technology, is a system able to recognise passengers in record times without them even needing to stop walking.
In addition to improving passport control, the digital passport also protects the privacy of the individual through the creation of what ObjectTech are calling a ‘self-sovereign identity’. This means that, just as with existing physical passports that you keep in your pocket, your digital passport is your data to control.
By using blockchain technology the information stored in the new digital passports can be trusted by governments and means only the individual, and the people specifically permitted access, can see the data; it’s physically impossible for even ObjectTech to access it. The new digital passports, the startup claims, are far more secure, harder to forge and more accurate than the existing passport – and you can’t lose them.
The UK startup is not only selling its blockchain-based tech as a way to ease passport control, but also as a way to fight identity fraud. Financial information, addresses, location aqnd other sensitive data can be stored, with a personal ‘self-soverign’ identity created. As the containing data cannot be faked or altered, the end result is a digital identity system that is far more secure and useful than a traditional passport.
“This is an identity that is fit for the digital age. Not only will it make international travel quicker and safer, but it also gives people back control of their personal digital data, which over the last decade is something that has increasingly become the property of third parties. Dubai is really committed to improving the lives of their citizens and visitors through technology and we’re very excited to be a part of making that a reality,” said Paul Ferris, co-founder and CEO of ObjectTech.
ObjectTech was chosen to take part in the Dubai government’s ‘Dubai Future Accelerator’ programme in January, with the pilot programme of the biometric border set to make its greatest impact by 2020, when 20 million people will be going through this one airport, per month.