Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Mon March 21 2016

UAE Trying to Take Smart Gate Idea to The Next Level

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | March 21, 2016

UAE Trying to Take Smart Gate Idea to The Next Level

Photo via Emaratech

Airports in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi have installed so-called “smart gates” that can serve as an alternative to standard immigration checkpoints. The automated passport check takes a matter of seconds - much faster than the standard face-to-face passport control process.

As with any high-tech feature, the most significant road block is not installing the equipment; it is actually getting people to use it. The UAE has been making a major push to get its citizens and residents to sign up for the service.

Free to use

Unlike the various pre-clearance services available in the United States, it is free for UAE residents and citizens to sign up for and use the smart gates. This eliminates cost as a possible excuse people could have for not signing up. When they enroll, people have to present their passport and they have to submit fingerprints and have an eye scan.

Last year, in an effort to make the sign-up process as easy as possible, the airport set up mobile registration booths at malls.

READ MORE: Coming Soon to China: Smart Airports

The next phase

The efforts to get citizens and residents enrolled to use the gates, which are also sometimes known as e-ports, has been successful thus far. In all, 1.5 million people are now signed up and able to use the service at the three main airports in the Emirates.

Now, the UAE has announced the signing of a new deal that will expand the program even more. The goal is to eventually have everyone who lives and works in the UAE registered to use the smart gates. Passport holders from a number of other countries, including the United States and Great Britain, can also register to use the service.

A better airport experience  

This is not another extravagant feature like so many things in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The smart gates solve a very practical issue, especially in Dubai. The Gulf hub will soon be the world’s busiest airport in terms of number of passengers. This kind of traffic could easily cause gridlock at security checkpoints and in immigration and customs lines. The e-ports takes between seven and 15 seconds per person, so lines move relatively fast.

READ MORE: Dubai International Airport Replacing Immigration Counters With ID Tech

Since more of the gates are being installed during the next phase of the government’s plan, the immigration process should continue to move quickly in the future as well.

Meanwhile, Singapore has plans for automated systems like the smart gates. Changi has recently signed a contract with a biometrics company to install automated systems throughout its new Terminal 4, which will open late next year. These systems will be used for more than immigration checkpoints. Biometric scanners will also be used for self-service bag drops and even automated boarding. 

In the near future, this kind of high tech streamlining could really set certain airports apart in terms of user friendliness.

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