Forget smart gates, Dubai is moving on to smart passengers, phasing out the need for rows of immigration officers and long-winded queues in the government’s latest technological conquest.

With 340,000 passengers having used the smart gates at the Dubai airports since installation early this year, the Directorate General of Residency and Foreigners Affairs said Dubai airports would progress from merely having smart gates to a ‘smart passenger’ system — a hi-tech piece of equipment adopted, according to the government entity, to save time, effort and money.

Assistant Director-General for e-Services Sector at the directorate Khalid Nasser Al Razouqi told Khaleej Times the all-new scheme, meant to enhance passenger flow and comfort, would come into effect within a maximum of 18 months. “The system shall be under study and development for one year and six months in trial, and then starts the exact implementation.”

He said the move was in line with the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who declared that a smart government must be within the reach of every user through hand-held devices. “The new smart system, under study and development, will help process arrival and departure procedures in no time and with no need for any immigration counter or officer at the airport.

“We simply want the inbound and outbound passenger never stops at any counter; just pass through a gate without presenting any passport or document, yet on condition that he or she has already been registered in the system,” he added.

Al Razouqi said the multi-cameras and scanner system would verify and compare the passenger’s finger and iris prints, along with the other information registered in the system while he or she passes through the gate with no stop.

“We have started with e-gates which reached 88, and then moved to smart gates, amounting to 28, and all these shall be replaced with the new smart passenger system within 18 months.”

Al Razouqi said the smart gates installed earlier this year could configure and verify the passenger’s iris scan 1.5 metres ahead. “A passenger just puts his or her passport for scanning for free, and the whole process takes only 20 seconds.

“However, we do want to cut short the entry and exit processing time to no seconds, and therefore we are working on the smart passenger system, for the benefit of the passenger.”

He said the new system, to be available for all passengers from all nationalities, will be installed at the airports of the emirate. “Should a passenger have a problem with his entry or exit, there will be an immigration officer to check and solve his or her problem as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai has introduced a five new electronic services to be available with 18 others on smart phones using Apple and Android operating systems.

(c)2013 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

Photo Credit: Passengers at a terminal at Dubai's airport. Dubai Airports