Edinburgh Airport facial scanners to cut queues

One of Edinburgh Airport's new MFlow cameras. Picture: contributed
One of Edinburgh Airport's new MFlow cameras. Picture: contributed
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HI-TECH cameras will regularly scan the faces of passengers at Edinburgh Airport in the latest futuristic move by officials to slash queues at security screenings.

The state-of-the-art facial recognition equipment installed throughout the bag check and security area will go live within weeks.

Trials of the MFlow Journey cameras have started in the past fortnight as airport management Global Infrastructure Partners [GIP] conceded it had recently failed to contain lengthy queues.

Passengers have been forced to wait for up to 30 minutes to get through the security screening zone during peak periods in recent weeks.

Each camera has a swirling blue LED light on the front designed to attract a person’s attention. The technology takes snapshots of a passenger’s face to capture their location as they travel through security.

Staff are able to subsequently measure queue lengths and journey times, with officials to use the data to direct resources at bottlenecks by putting on extra staff or opening more screening machines.

Ian Cushion, marketing manager for Human Recognition Systems [HRS], said a person’s identification was not recorded by the snapshots, meaning the devices could not be used for Big Brother-style purposes.

He said: “It takes an image of a passenger’s face, but it converts that image into a code. It’s not like it will store an image of the passenger and keep that on file. That code can’t be reverse-engineered to create an image. As the passenger moves through the airport, it will time the passage between way points – say from when they check in to security to the baggage drop. The airport will then set a target time they would like to see their passengers flow through those way points.”

The facial recognition technology has previously been installed at London Gatwick and London City airports, which are also operated by GIP.

Airport chief operating officer David Wilson said: “Our security queues have been longer than normal over the last few weeks and we agree that our performance has not been up to the standard expected of us.

“Although the vast majority of passengers pass through security in under ten minutes, we have been experiencing particular issues during early morning peak periods. We are working hard to resolve our current issues and are confident that our new queue management technology will help us better monitor the volume of passengers in the hall and therefore improve the overall experience.”

Head of IT Graeme Agnew said management had wanted a solution that could possibly be introduced in other areas of the airport in the future.

The MFlow Journey cameras are capable of being upgraded to allow snapshots of individuals to be assigned to their boarding pass. That scenario would allow passengers to pass through security gates without being checked by airport staff.