Face-recognition system for visitors to be used at border control

Automated border clearance revamp to include new system to speed up processing times at control points, says Immigration Department

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 7:40am

The Immigration Department plans to introduce a face-recognition system in addition to fingerprint-checking currently used for incoming travellers using e-channels, according to a document submitted to the Legislative Council's security panel.

It is part of the department's plan to revamp its information technology infrastructure at the city's control points.

The department also plans to consolidate and merge several control point systems - such as a system that provides self-service immigration clearance for vehicle drivers and a closed-circuit television system into an integrated control point system.

The document says that the department completed a feasibility study on the proposed changes in July.

"Face-recognition technology has reached high maturity and accuracy and is widely adopted in other advanced countries for automated border clearance purpose," it says.

These countries include Australia, Portugal, Germany and Britain.

The department estimates that over 60 per cent of travellers will be holding electronic travel documents by 2016, and that this will gradually increase to over 90 per cent in 2020.

This underlines the possibility of further automation in immigration clearance procedures, the document says.

"The projected number of additional departure counters would be reduced proportionally, hence enabling re-deployment of manpower to perform other clearance-related duties," it says.

The document does not explain clearly whether only Hongkongers using the e-channels would need to go through the face-recognition system.

The term used in the document is "incoming visitors" and it does not specify whether this refers to residents only or other categories of travellers entitled to use e-channels, such as enrolled frequent visitors from the mainland or residents of Macau.

The revamp will incur total non-recurrent expenditure of about HK$1 billion in the next four years, as it will be introduced in phases. It will also entail an annual recurrent expenditure of HK$1.584 million in 2015-2016, which will then go up to HK$193.335 million in 2020-2021.

It estimates that the revamp will save HK$765.854 million of non-recurrent costs and HK$39.069 million of recurrent cost in 2016-2017.

It plans to seek approval from the Legco Finance Committee early next year.