Airport security to include face and iris-scanning fish in virtual aquarium tunnel

It’s going to get freaky futuristic at the airport, if you are in Dubai that is, with biometric-scanning Smart Tunnels for passport control and Tesla rides which weigh your luggage and deliver boarding passes.

Starting in 2018 at the Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3, passengers will no longer need to stop at any security clearance counter to show their passports. Instead, travelers will pass through a first-of-its-kind biometric tunnel equipped with 80 face and iris scanning cameras hidden behind an immersive aquarium video. Details about the Smart Tunnel were revealed during the five-day Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) Technology week.

“It is the first of its kind in the world and it’s a biometric system that allows passengers to simply walk through the tunnel without doing anything,” Major Khalid Al Felasi, Assistant General Director of Smart Services in GDRFA-Dubai, told Gulf News. “They don’t even need to show their passport. It works on face recognition technology and the passenger can finish entry procedure within 15 seconds.”

Although the Smart Tunnel can display any number of videos, such as horses running through the desert, a flowered path surrounded by skyscrapers, or even advertisements, the virtual reality tunnel in Dubai airport will display an aquarium similar to the walk-through tunnels at large tourist-attraction aquariums.

“The fish is a sort of entertainment and something new for the traveler but, at the end of the day, it attracts the vision of the travelers to different corners in the tunnel for the cameras to capture his/her face print,” explained Major Gen. Obaid Al Hameeri, deputy director general of Dubai residency and foreign affairs. “The virtual images are of very high quality and gives a simulation of a real-life aquarium.”

At the start of the tunnel, a person is to stand and look up at the iris-scan camera before proceeding through. While the curved ceiling and sides will display the aquarium, the digital floorboard will first display the color red which changes to green as the procedure finishes approving that traveler. The total time from start to finish is between 10 to 15 seconds. Not that I love all the biometric scanning, but just try to get through a TSA line in 15 seconds!

The National reported, “At the end of the tunnel, if the traveler is already registered, they will either receive a green message that says ‘have a nice trip’ or, if the person is wanted for some reason, a red sign will alert the operations room to interfere.”

As for that registration, travelers are to first register their face scan at a kiosk. But the kiosks in airports are not the only way to register as it can also be done via smartphone during a Tesla ride to the airport.”

Major Felasi told Gulf News that “the project will include Tesla electric cars to ferry passengers to the airport and that passengers would be able to register their details during the trip to the airport.” He added, “The car will collect passengers’ information, including the weight of the luggage, on the way to the airport and will deliver boarding pass in the car itself. It is all done by the smartphone.”

After arriving at the airport, “the luggage automatically goes through a smart system without the need to carry it through. The passenger can then proceed through the smart tunnel to finish passport control procedures in a few seconds.”

These are a few of the new security measures adopted by Dubai International Airport to combat terrorism; another involves Chinese-made explosive detection scanners which reportedly can “detect a wider range of explosive materials.” Additional Smart Tunnels are to be deployed at other terminals after the one at Terminal 3 launches by the end of the summer 2018. By 2020, over 124 million travelers are expected to pass through Dubai airports.

The video below downplays the number the biometric scanning cameras, mentioning only “more than 10 cameras,” while The National reported the tunnel will have about 80 cameras, with iris scanners to be added in the future.