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Paris airport studies facial software to cut security wait times

Monday, February 13, 2017 - 13:57

[PARIS] Groupe ADP, the operator of Paris's airports, has begun testing new face-recognition software at Charles de Gaulle airport to speed passengers through immigration faster after terrorist attacks on the capital doubled delays amid tighter security.

The new software is from Vision-Box, a closely held company in Portugal, and Morpho Detection, a unit of Safran SA now being sold to Smiths Group Plc. Following the attacks in Paris and Nice in 2015 and 2016, the state required computer records of every passenger passing border control. That doubled the number of passengers exposed to waits of as much as an extra hour to get through controls, ADP said.

"We had to do something to address this," chief executive officer Augustin de Romanet said at a briefing.

The move comes as airports worldwide are rushing to tap digital technologies, including biometric recognition, to speed passengers through airports, where delays are generally far more punishing than ones in the air.

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The only speedy pass-through available at Paris's Charles de Gaulle and Orly Airports now is Parafe, an automated system for French citizens that scans their biometric passports and fingerprints. 

Only 3 per cent of people passing through Charles de Gaulle use Parafe, which has been in use since 2009.

The Vision-Box software will check passport images with people's faces from all 28 European Union countries.

If trials go well and the French state signs off on use of the software, the number of people going biometrics to speed passage could climb to as much as 20 per cent of the average 180,000 people passing through daily, said Franck Goldnadel, chief airport operations officer, in an interview.

ADP has 37 machines in use with Parafe and has ordered 87 more through 2021, of which 45 will arrive this year. De Romanet said it's normally the government that would invest in such equipment but in the absence of funding, ADP invested an initial 6 million euros (S$9 millio) of its own to help break logjams.

KLM has just begun a three month trial to use face-scanning technology at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. in Japan the government last year invested to install facial recognition systems at airports nationwide. And in the US, biometric screening firm Clear is expanding to 22 major airports. Clear charges travelers US$170 a year to enroll, whereas the French system would be free.

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