It was a Friday afternoon and at 6:30pm, and I was still in the Uber. My flight to Amman, Jordan was leaving at 7:1 0pm, and I was sitting in deadlocked traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, UAE. It would be another 10-20mins of traffic until I reached the airport. Luckily, I arrived at the airport at 6:45pm and reached the end of the boarding queue at 6:50pm just in time to make my flight. The 5 minute door to queue commute would not have been possible without with my UAE e- gate card (and Mizuno running shoes).
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
With 77 million passengers in 2015, Dubai International Airport (DXB) remained the world’s busiest airport by international passenger traffic for the second year in a row. DXB was followed by London’s Heathrow (70M passengers) and Hong Kong International Airport (68M passengers) . Between 2015 and 2014, DXB experienced a 10.7% increase in passenger traffic . The passenger growth at DXB has been largely driven by increased business traveler traffic for travelers connecting through Asia and Africa and increased regional tourism. Growing passenger traffic had pushed Dubai International Airport to implement the E-gate system.
Dubai implemented it’s e-gate system to increase to improve the speed and convenience of immigration arrival and departure services of frequent passengers and also the overall throughput of passengers.E-Gate is the biometric immigration card that allows passengers to move through immigration in 3-5 mins . The passenger is able to scan their e-gate card, and validate their identity using a thumb print.E-gate makes it efficient for UAE residents to get in and out of Dubai airport quickly, and also minimizes the immigration queues for passengers who are not able to access e-gate due to passport restrictions.
THE CASE FOR INCREASING TECHNOLOGY IN AIRPORT IMMIGRATION
With the ubiquity of international air travel and the frequent passage of travelers and workers across massive number of land border checkpoints, biometrics can play a key role in improving travel flow and supporting commerce while increasing security and efficiency of government resources. The Dubai International Airport serves as a great case for where biometrics has been largely beneficial not only for the airport and airlines, but also the passengers, who often time waste hours waiting in immigration queues, which could be spent in the departure city or shopping in duty free.
As borders are highly diverse by nature, from massive airports and land borders to mobile checkpoints and remote crossings, high throughput and mobile biometric capabilities each play a vital role. Integration of solutions, including iris, fingerprint, and face biometric modalities supports these diverse use cases, and offers the ability to transition over time from broadly used but less accurate approaches to newer and more effective technologies. AOptix Technologies and Tascent, the technology providers for Dubai e-gate have been working on rolling out iris scanning technology to improve safety and efficiency in the immigration at Dubai and other international airports .
CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS IN E-GATE at DUBAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Critical component in reducing queues at the airport was ensuring that a critical mass of frequent travelers who are both residents of the UAE or residents of different qualifying countries was aware of and enrolled in the e-gate system. It is easy to design a great technological solution, but friction in implementation can make it so there is not enough adoption. A main reason why implementation of e-gate was so successful in Dubai was because the government has an ownership stake in both Emirates Airline (the largest airline carrier using the airport) and Dubai International Airport. The Dubai government is then able to use both entities to facilitate communication and enrollment of e-government programs with airline passengers. In order to ensure customers are aware of and enrolled in the e-gate system there is heavily coordination between Emirates Airline—the airline mails enrollment instructions to all loyalty card “Skywards members”. In other international airports, the airline may be privately owned with little coordination with government services or have multiple airline carriers to coordinate with. This makes the process for communicating proper immigration requirements and procedures to customers before, after and during their flights highly fragmented and difficult to coordinate.
The implementation of the technology also allowed the airport to use staff more efficiently. They were able to have more people at the security checkpoints scanning luggage and throughout other parents of the airport.
THE EVOLUTION OF BIOMETRICS IN IMMIGRATION
Tascent, the partner company for DXB’s technology has since utilized iris scan technology in Gatwick Airport in London ]. The installation utilizes InSight Duo iris recognition systems to facilitate travel and reduce queuing times for thousands of travelers each day. The increased use of technology in airport immigration and departure services is increasing. It will only be a matter of time before everyone is having an iris scan and moving through boarders with minimal human interaction.