At the SDW 2014 conference in London, Frank Smith, strategy co-ordinator for the Home Office biometric programme, identified passport microchips and electronic visas as an important security measure for passports.
Technology, says Smith, plays an important role in increasing the use of existing secure documents as well as increasing the efficiency of business processes. Microchips in passports mean that authorities can be sure the document and data has not been altered. Further investigations are underway to find ways to add information to microchips in passports – for instance, electronic visas that can be written to the chip and read at national borders.
Smith said that technology has also enabled electronic gates to be implemented at Heathrow, which allow automated access to holders of EU passports. So far, 30 million passengers have been admitted to the UK this way. This technology, which uses facial recognition to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the biometric passport chip, offers an alternative to going to a desk manned by immigration officers.
According to Smith, “There has been a 30% increase in the number of passengers using e-gates in the past year, and Gatwick has recently installed a bank of 12 e-gates in its South Terminal…Technological developments supported by co-operation, partnerships and standards, will enable sustained innovation in secure document applications.”