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Singapore’s Changi Airport (SIN) says it plans to test new facial recognition technology throughout its terminals. Airport officials say the new platform will be capable of identifying passengers among the crowds at gates and in terminals.

Facial recognition technology has popped up at some airports as a new means of boarding for certain airlines. Lufthansa used it earlier this year to board an A380 in 20 minutes. But Changi’s use of it would push it a step further. Airport representatives say that the tech could help replace passengers’ passports and even scan the terminal to find flyers who are about to miss their plane.

“We have lots of reports of lost passengers… so one possible use case we can think of is, we need to detect and find people who are on the flight,” Steve Lee, chief information officer of Changi Airport told Reuters. “Of course, with permission from the airlines.”

Lee says the airport has been testing the technology and thinks it will be able to begin preliminary use in about one year.

Changi is said to be in talks with several tech firms to provide the facial recognition systems, one of which is Chinese company Yitu, and the interface can identify more than 1.8 billion faces in less than 3 seconds.

Similar technology is already in use in Changi’s newest terminal, T4, for passenger self-service at check-in, luggage drop, immigration and boarding. For instance, when a passenger drops their bag at the self-service booth, their picture is taken and matched to their passport. The same process takes place at the automatic immigration checkpoint, and that picture is later used as a boarding pass.

Lee predicts this process will soon replace physical passports and boarding passes. “Then actually in future, you just take your face,” he said. “You don’t need your passport.”

The new technology developments at Changi are part of a larger push throughout Singapore for a “smart nation,” or a program to use advances in tech to make the city-state more efficient. The program’s critics say the facial recognition platform throughout the entire island nation raises major privacy concerns.

But, as far as the airport is concerned, Lee says the new facial recognition interface will help solve a litany of problems — from lost passengers to gate planning.

As he said to Reuters: “You can’t say you are a smart nation when you come to the airport and it’s not so smart.”

Featured image by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images.

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