Customs faces up to new border technology

Customs is using face-recognition software from US company Imagis to see how adaptable the technology is, in its existing systems in a border control role, and to raise awareness of biometrics among its own staff.

Customs is using face-recognition software from US company Imagis to see how adaptable the technology is, in its existing systems in a border control role, and to raise awareness of biometrics among its own staff.

But use of the technology does not imply endorsement of Imagis at this stage, says Customs IT chief Peter Rosewarne.

“We have bought an Imagis software development kit to look inside the technology and see how it can be accommodated to our systems,” he says. Face recognition systems and even other biometric techniques have similar characteristics in terms of fitting into the broader systems perspective, he says, so the Imagis trial will yield information applicable to a range of possible contenders.

When Customs has equipped itself with the knowledge to conduct a competent comparative trial, and if it decides face-recognition technology is relevant and usable, the usual open tendering exercise will be conducted to select a final solution, Rosewarne says. A final decision is at least a year away.

The main reasons for using the Imagis technology as a testbed (see Customs, Police eye face-recognition technology) are that it is reasonably priced, comes from a reputable supplier and is locally supported, he says. The local agent is Wellington company ITB.

Face recognition is a technology that is hard to avoid when looking at the potential for tighter and more efficient border control, Rosewarne says.

But industry sources suggest Customs could be a pioneer, as no other country is using face-recognition technology for border control, though a number of foreign enforcement agencies use it for identification of offenders and victims.

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