New Zealanders entering Australia will be subject to facial-recognition scanning “as soon as possible”, after the conclusion of a Brisbane trial.
Australian Customs project leader Gillian Savage told the annual Biometrics Institute Australia conference that the public trial in Brisbane would be followed by the launch of the technology at Sydney and Melbourne airports, which is scheduled for August.
CNET News quotes her as saying: “Initially, the SmartGates will only be able to process Australian e-passport holders. However, we will open the service up to New Zealand e-passport holders as soon as possible.
“Other e-passport holders beyond that will require foreign-language support, but the SmartGate programme will, ultimately, be open to all eligible e-passports from around the world,” she says.
A spokesperson for New Zealand Customs says facial recognition options in New Zealand are still being evaluated. “We’re watching the Australian deployment, but we don’t know whether we’re going forward. It’s up to the government.”
When asked how New Zealand electronic technology would link to the SmartCard system, she said: “It’s got something to do with the fact that Australia can read both chips but we can only read one.”
She referred detailed questions to Customs’ group manager IS Peter Rosewarne, but he is on holiday.
The Australian trials are six months behind schedule because of a range of technical issues. “We’ve had the booths and gates in place since the end of February, but through the testing we discovered a whole range of issues around hardware and software,” Savage says.
The Australian software is sourced from German company Cognitec Systems. Australian vendor Biometrix was paid more than $A600,000 (NZ$673,000) to develop middleware to interface to other elements of the SmartGate system.
The Biometrix contract led to media questions because the then chief executive of Biometrix, Ted Dunstone, was the chairman of the purportedly independent Biometrics Institute during the evaluation period.