Small Island, Smart Nation

Singapore Airport Embraces Facial Recognition Technology

Singapore’s Changi Airport, already one of the world’s most impressive, is hoping to push the envelope, using biometrics to make passenger journeys even smoother. The airport’s management is beginning to rely on facial recognition systems for operations such as self-service check-in, bag drop, immigration and boarding. It’s also testing the use of this technology to pinpoint late or lost passengers in the airport as a way to prevent flight delays.

According to Steve Lee, Changi Airport Group’s chief information officer, the airport’s experiments will help solve real problems. He noted that a strategy for a smart nation begins at the airport: “You can’t say you are a smart nation when you come to the airport and it’s not so smart”.

Changi is also looking to implement technologies like artificial intelligence to cut the time planes spend on the runway and to make quicker predictions of flight arrivals.

This is part of a wider plan of the Singaporean government to turn the island-country into a “smart nation”, taking advantage of the latest technology to improve the economy and quality of life, areas in which Singapore already ranks highly worldwide.

Singapore’s Smart Nation endeavour is weaving its way into most services, including transport, healthcare, payments, security and education. It’s a strategic vision that will rely on wide availability of sensors and connectivity. Singapore is a tech-savvy country, adopting the newest technologies and giving its population access to data, as well as welcoming new talent.

Despite the numerous benefits touted by those promoting Changi Airport’s approach, the flip side of this innovation is that it raises significant privacy concerns. Given the current heightened consumer sensitivity in this area, the use of technology such as image recognition in such a comprehensive way would certainly cause a backlash in many other countries.

This is what makes this initiative so interesting and it’s clear that Singapore is emerging as a sort of Petri dish where the latest technologies are cultured and tested. The government proudly refers to itself as a “living laboratory”. This is a lab experiment for other nations to watch closely.

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