Face & Eye Scanners At Checkpoints Will Replace Fingerprint ID As Primary Clearance Method

UPDATE (8.30pm): The article has been updated to correct several inaccuracies.

Fumbling with your passport and getting past the thumbprint scanners at checkpoints are struggles many of us can relate to.

Thankfully, we might not have to deal with them soon, as the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has come up with a better solution — iris and facial scanners.

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These new devices have been installed at all automated and manual immigration lanes and counters of passenger halls at Singapore’s land, sea and air checkpoints since Jul 2020.

Recognition of iris patterns and facial features will replace fingerprint scans as the primary process for identity clearance.

And from 2022, you might not even need passports to pass through immigration.

Iris & facial scanners installed at checkpoints

According to ICA’s press release on Wednesday (28 Oct), passenger halls at air, sea and land checkpoints are now equipped with iris and facial scanners.

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Travellers who have enrolled their iris and facial biometrics with ICA are eligible to use the scanners.

They include:

  • Singaporeans
  • Permanent Residents (PRs)
  • Long-term pass holders
  • International travellers who have registered their iris & facial biometrics with ICA

2 million eligible Singaporeans have registered

The Straits Times (ST) reports that 2 million Singaporeans have registered their facial and iris biometrics with ICA to employ this mode of identification.

That forms 70% of all Singaporeans who hold valid passports. For PRs, 130,000 have also registered.

ICA explains that since iris recognition requires 250 feature points for matching whereas fingerprints only need 100, the new scanners will provide greater security.

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On top of that, the technology requires specialised equipment, especially for iris scans, which makes it less vulnerable to misuse.

Facial & iris scans more hygienic

In a time when hygiene is of utmost importance, iris and facial scans are convenient due to their contactless technology.

According to TODAY Online, ICA’s deputy superintendent shared that the matching of a traveller’s biometrics with ICA’s database takes less than 1 second.

With iris recognition at automated immigration clearance lanes, travellers can now avoid issues to do with verifying their fingerprints such as ageing, scarring, or dryness.

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For now, children under the age of 6 can’t use the biometrics scanner yet as their facial features are still under development. They can register at a later age.

Registering for the new iris & facial scans

Singapore citizens, PRs, and long-term pass holders who haven’t registered their iris and facial biometrics can seek help from ICA officers at checkpoints when travelling.

Alternatively, they can also do it upon visiting the ICA building for immigration services.

As for first-time foreign visitors, they will need to register their iris, facial, and fingerprint biometrics upon arrival. They can then use automated clearance when leaving the country.

With this new technology, Singapore is on track to have residents to clear immigration without using a passport from 2022.

Greater efficiency, safety & security

This new clearance seems to be killing 2 birds with 1 stone — there will be no physical contact with machines, and more unique identification boosts security.

We are glad technology and processes are constantly evolving to meet the needs of the time and its people.

It seems we no longer have to spend on hand moisturisers to make our immigration experiences smoother anymore.

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Featured image adapted from Changi Airport Group.