Travel hubs set for facial recognition

'Smart airport' project to save time

Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam

The Transport Ministry is planning to use a facial recognition system in five upcountry airports as part of its ambitious "smart airport" project to reduce overcrowding, increase safety and boost tourism.

The technology is expected to replace inspections of passports and national identity cards, which becomes an increasingly time-consuming procedure as the number of air passengers rises.

"Currently, travellers may be required to show their ID cards or passports up to three times in one trip through an airport," said Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam.

But these repetitive tasks can be reduced to save time, if airports are equipped with the technology to identify and verify people's faces.

"They can have their faces scanned just once at check-in counters and then board a plane without the need to show their ID cards, passports or boarding passes," said Mr Thaworn.

The deputy minister even envisages that tourists can have their bags tagged at hotels or other check-in points prior to their air travel.

"The travellers will no longer experience congestion at terminals," Mr Thaworn said.

"The new facility not only benefits Thai nationals who travel within the country, but can also be used by foreign visitors taking domestic trips," he said.

His ministry first wants to install the technology at regional airports currently struggling to handle the large number of air passengers. Those include Krabi and Surat Thani airports in the South, and Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani and Khon Kaen airports in the Northeast.

A working panel, consisting of representatives from the Department of Airports, the Royal Thai Police and the Interior Ministry will be set up to study this new identification system. They need to discuss ways to sync their databases, which store information on Thai and foreign travellers, in order to support the technology.

The facial recognition system is part of the smart airport project aimed at modernising the five airports to give passengers more convenient and comfortable trips. Officials are also considering building sleeping quarters as well as co-working spaces for travellers, said Mr Thaworn.