Facial ID system mulled to speed up airport immigration


The Justice Ministry is considering introducing a facial identification system at airports to automate and speed up immigration procedures, officials said Saturday.

The ministry will begin test demonstrations as early as this summer. According to the plan, the system first would be used for Japanese travelers, while authorities continue to fingerprint foreign nationals as part of counterterrorism efforts, they said.

Immigration officers currently identify most travelers by comparing faces with passport photos.

A fingerprint recognition system has been introduced for Japanese travelers at Narita and three other major international airports, but its use has been limited because it requires the preregistration of fingerprints, the officials said.

In developing a new automatic identification system, the ministry also considered scanning irises and hand veins, but officials consider facial recognition the most viable option because it is designed to compare data already stored in passport IC chips and photos taken at immigration.

In the demonstrations, the ministry will check whether the system can identify people heavily disguised with special makeup and also whether it can correctly distinguish twins, the officials said.

Facial recognition systems already have been introduced in Britain and Australia, according to the ministry.

Airport chief chosen


The government will name Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. Deputy President Keiichi Ando as president of New Kansai International Airport Co., which will be established in April to integrate two airports in the Osaka area, sources said.

Ando, 60, the bank’s representative director in charge of operations in western Japan, has been selected for his strong connections to Kansai business circles and for his expertise in corporate finance and management, they said.

Many in the region’s business sector have been calling on the government to recruit the head of the new airport operator from the private sector.

The airport operator will be set up in April for the integration in July of Kansai International Airport and Osaka International Airport, a move aimed at reducing more than ¥1 trillion in interest-bearing debt held by Kansai airport.

The new firm will comprehensively manage the runways and the operation of terminal buildings at the two airports, with the aim of selling its management rights to a private company in a few years.