Facial Recognition Could Be Used at Singapore Airport to Find Passengers

Facial recognition could be used for many more things than just signing into your device. Singapore’s Changi Airport is already using the technology for self-service operations, but they also might start using it to find wayward passengers who are late for their flights.

Current Use of Facial Recognition

The Changi Airport in Singapore is already ahead of the times and using facial recognition. Their newest terminal, T4, offers certain self-service options through facial recognition such as check-in, bag check, immigration, and boarding. It means the terminal deals with fewer lines and doesn’t need to employ as many staff.

When you enter the terminal, you drop your luggage at an unmanned booth that also takes your photo to match it against your passport. An automated security gate will take your photo once again at immigration and will use it to verify your identity once you reach the boarding gate.

T4 is a testing site for the next terminal which will be operational in about a decade, and Changi is also looking at how they can use the same system in their three older terminals.


Today you take passport, you show your face, and you show your boarding pass,” said Steve Lee, chief information officer with Changi Airport Group. But with biometrics in use, “you just take your face. You don’t need your passport.

They’re using technology other than facial recognition as well at Changi. They are underway with a trial that use sensors to discover when an aircraft leaves the gate and when it takes off, finding it’s improved decision-making and made taxiing time slightly less. They’re also experimenting with using AI and weather to predict flight arrival times.

Plans for the Future

Changi is proposing yet another use for facial recognition as they work on enforcing the idea of Singapore being a “smart nation.”

They’re considering mounting cameras with facial recognition software on lampposts to help find passengers who are late for their flights. We’ve all been on a flight that sits longer than it should at the terminal, as it’s waiting for someone doing a run through the airport, trying to catch the flight. Nonetheless, it’s raised privacy concerns for some.

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. Of course, with permission from the airlines,” said Lee.


He adds that they have already tested this technology and are working with businesses, hoping they can set this in motion within a year. Yitu, a Chinese firm, with a new office in Singapore, is in discussions with Changi Airport Group. Their facial recognition system is able to identify more than 1.8 billion faces in less than three seconds.

Would You Be Bothered by It?

Lee believes a smart nation strategy starts at a country’s airport. “You can’t say you are a smart nation when you come to the airport, and it’s not so smart.

It’s not surprising that a survey by air travel consultancy Skytrax has ranked Changi Airport the world’s best for six years in a row. Lee promises that all of this is not to enforce “big brother” but to solve real problems that they see.

Regardless of what he says, is it too “big brother?” Is it too much to have your image implanted all over an airport, from check-in, to immigration, to the boarding gate, and even on lampposts to ensure you make your flight? Is this too much of an intrusion? Leave your thoughts and concerns in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Damien Aiello via Wikimedia Commons and Sengkang via English.Wikipedia

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

One comment

  1. “Would You Be Bothered by It?”
    YES! While the stated reason for its use is benign, it is the implications that scare the crap out of me. It is a very small step from tracking wayward passengers at an airport to tracking EVERYBODY 24/7/385. The world of the defunct TV show “Person of Interest” is becoming true faster than I expected. Unless the show was forced off the air by the powers that be for lifting the veil of secrecy from the already present government surveiulance.

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