UAE building out border biometrics

UAE will launch full biometric scanning systems at borders soon (Tnooz)

The United Arab Emirates is set to become one of the most technically advanced countries when it comes to border control. The Emirates will deploy a series of biometric e-gates at all entry points while also working to gather more biometric data to add to the fingerprints currently tracked in its biometric database.

The UAE is already one of the most eager adopters of border biometrics. That doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

Abu Dhabi bank to introduce voice recognition technology

UAE: End of the Pin number? ADCB to launch voice recognition service (The National)

The biometric technology used by ADCB works by comparing the caller’s voice to a pre-recorded sample given by the client, ADCB said.

That will allow customers to get on the phone with a bank representative quicker while reducing the chances of fraud.

“In this competitive environment we need to make sure that customer convenience and ease of access are effectively balanced with information and transaction security,” said Ravi Nair, the head of customer experience at ADCB. “The voice biometrics technology will play a vital role in ensuring increased security and convenience at the same time, while making client calls shorter and reducing our overall cost to serve.”

UAE to open biometric visa enrollment center in Sri Lanka

UAE opens its first visa issuing centre outside the country in… (Emirates 247)

The new visa centre serves 500 customers every day and uses passport authentication and biometrics such as fingerprints, eyeprints and faceprints, and medical tests conducted at 15 Sri Lankan centres accredited by U.A.E. Ministry of Health, in order to identity, and prevent entry of individuals with contagious disease.

The procedures will save costs of recruitment, quarantine and deportation and improve customer service as they are aimed at providing excellent consular services fulfilling internationally recognised standards.

An Emirati view of national ID

UAE ID programme model for the world, security experts say (The National)

The Emirates Identity programme was established by virtue of a federal decree in 2004.

The national ID card has the cardholder’s name, nationality, gender and date of birth on it. The card also bears a unique 15-digit identification number, which is used for identity verification by the Government and private entities. Inside the card is an electronic chip that contains personal and biometric data about the cardholder.

The UAE is advanced in its application of biometrics to national ID. The article sheds some light on why that is the case.

Dubai airport is adding 14 e-gates to the 14 it already uses

After only five months, the Dubai airport is doubling the amount of biometric e-gates available to passengers.

Dubai Airport’s Terminal 3 to get 14 more e-gates (Gulf News)

Dubai: The smart e-gate system which went operational at Dubai International airport’s Terminal 3 from January 1 this year is being expanded with 14 new e-gates becoming operational in a month’s time, taking the number of smart e-gates to 28, according to emaratech, the company which has engineered and powered the project.

The new smart e-gate system and the technology behind it were demonstrated at the 13th Airport Show. Sunil Gulia, emaratech’s technical manager, said the smart e-gate system has already seen close to 70,000 passengers registering since it started, but the number of times the gate has been used is much higher due to frequent fliers.

20 seconds to get through UAE immigration, thanks to Smart Gates (The National)

Three passengers will be able to be processed each minute using the new system and “Smart Gates” – a vast improvement on the current average wait of about an hour.

World Record Academy recognizes UAE population register as the largest biometric database in the world.

UAE receives official certification for largest biometric database (Gulf News)

The population register of Emirates Identity Authority (Emirates ID) has more than 103 million digital fingerprints and more than 15 million digital facial recognition records, which includes multiple records of each UAE resident, and digital signatures as of mid-October 2012.

World Record Academy has now recognised it as the largest such database in the world.

The FBI was unavailable for comment.

UPDATE: Interoperability, the Emirates ID & Social Media

ID card was supposed to make things easier (7 Days in Dubai)

I went to update my eGate card only to be told that they can’t use our UAE ID cards because they don’t have the machines to accept the cards.

I thought paying out all that money for ID cards was to help out with situations if you didn’t have your passport with you. What’s going on?

Two things of note here…

If “Confused, UAE” is typical, customers/users/stakeholders are beginning to expect interoperability as far as ID systems go.

The social media presence of the Emirates ID people is impressive. The Emirates ID Authority found this post a day after it went up and used the site’s comments section to offer assistance to the individual having problems. That’s pretty cool.

Twitter: @EmiratesID

The people at the Emirates ID Authority were kind enough to direct my attention to web resources explaining how Emiratis (citizens and residents) can add e-gate service to their Emirates ID for use at all UAE airports.

@securlinx Good morning, please be advised that you can activate the e-gate service on the Emirates ID card and use it .. Cont.
— Emirates ID (@EmiratesID) November 8, 2012

@securlinx over all UAE airports. Please find more about e-gate service on:
— Emirates ID (@EmiratesID) November 8, 2012

They’re saying that the e-gates and the national ID systems are, in fact, interoperable.

The question, however, of why the holder of an Emirates ID must proactively link their ID to the e-gate system remains. So let’s take a look at what automatic recognition of every Emirates ID at e-gates would mean.

For all Emirates ID’s to work automatically and by default with all e-gates at all UAE airports with a high degree of security and accuracy, the UAE central ID database would have to either:

(1) be available to hardware (e-gates) located at all airports at all times (in order to compare information on the card with information in the database) or

(2) regularly update all e-gate hardware with copies of parts of the central database information (the parts relevant to travel) on all residents at all UAE airports.

There are actually some pretty good reasons you might not want to do either of these things, database security first and foremost among them. Regarding a national ID central database, a conservative approach to information sharing would yield an attitude that the least amount of information should be shared that still allows the desired service to be provided. Right now that seems to mean that only a small slice of information held by the Emirates ID Authority about a small slice of the population is shared to the e-gate system on an opt-in basis.

Like we occasionally say around here, ID management technology is a powerful tool. The management part is very important though. People — human managers and decision makers — give its use meaning. Perhaps one day ID information will be shared ubiquitously and securely to provide extremely high levels of citizen services without requiring much if any forethought from individuals. It looks like that’s the way the world is heading, however haltingly. But it’s also easy to see why a government, especially an early adopting one, would want to take a step by step approach toward getting there.

Of course, one could still quibble with other management decisions such as the fees or the extra bureaucratic step involved, but that’s a question of how, rather than why.

I’ll also repeat my earlier praise for the Emirates ID social media presence.
@EmiratesID (by our own experience) and @EmiratesID_Help (by all appearances) are both highly engaged and responsive ways for the public both inside and outside the UAE to learn more about and interact with the Emirates ID Authority.


I’m afraid I was understood by @EmiratesID to be saying the opposite of what I meant as the update above prompted this response:

@securlinx Thank you for sharing your article & feedback with us. On the contrary to your view, there are a few who find this service…cont
— Emirates ID (@EmiratesID) November 11, 2012

@securlinx …useful and beneficial, considering that we are moving forward with our technology and offered services.
— Emirates ID (@EmiratesID) November 11, 2012

That’s not contrary to our view, at all. We take @EmiratesID at its word that “there are a few who find this service useful and beneficial…” In fact, I’m quite sure they’re being modest.

Of course, some complaints are inevitable with ID and airports. I don’t wish to elevate one person’s confusion as the issue. The interesting things about the 7 Days in Dubai piece that inspired this post are the questions it provokes about how high-tech ID systems work, why they work the way they do, and the importance of efforts to help and explain things to stakeholders.

For the e-gates to work in the way that “Confused, UAE” expected, database practices that many would consider unwise would have to be put into place. Given that the technology is new and that the UAE is an early adopter of a more high-tech approach to ID, it is important to strike a proper balance between convenience and service on the one hand and data security on the other. The Emirates ID Authority is by all appearances serious about striking that balance and possess the abilities to do so. It is therefore not surprising in the least that many (even the vast majority) of Emiratis find the technology and services offered by the Emirates ID Authority extremely useful and beneficial.

I am aware of no evidence that the EmiratesID Authority is “doing it wrong” and there is plenty of evidence  that they are doing it right. That includes their responsiveness as an organization and I thank them for it.

[Edit: In the case that someone at EmiratesID (or anyone else for that matter) wants to respond more expansively than allowed by Twitter’s 140 character limit, I can be reached at and would love to hear from you.]

UAE: Iris border ID system detects 20,000 illegal entry attempts in 9 months…

…and almost 350,000 since 2003.

Iris scan prevented entry of 20,000 deportees into UAE: Director General of Abu Dhabi Police Central Operations (Emirates ID)

H.E. Major General Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, Director General of Abu Dhabi Police Central Operations and Emirates Identity Authority Board Member, has unveiled that during the first nine months of this year, the iris scan succeeded in preventing the entry of 20,476 deportees and ex-convicts while trying to re-enter the UAE via the different entry points.

In news published in Al Bayan newspaper today, Al Raisi said the iris scan prevented the entry of 347,019 deportees to the UAE since the system was comprehensively put to use in September 2003 up to end of last September.

UAE: The World’s most complete ID management laboratory

Emirates ID has world’s largest integrated biometrics (Go Dubai News)

Dr. Al Khouri added “providing a comprehensive database of inhabitants’ fingerprints, will contribute and support projects related to Emirates national vision 2021, aimed at enhancing the security and advancement of society, as well as supporting e-government projects through authenticating personal identity in e-transactions conducted over the Internet, thus contributing to hindering the risk of identity theft that increases day by day worldwide. This criminal behavior caused losses estimated at hundreds of billions of Dirhams.

He explained that the Authority succeeded in this achievement, as a result of the reengineering of registration procedures and the improving of electronic infrastructure, through the use of modern and high quality electronic hardware and software specialized in capturing high quality fingerprints.

Nigeria to take biometrics at all border crossings (Vanguard)

On the rising tide of insecurity, Moro disclosed that biometric machines had been ordered to enhance the collation of biometric data of anyone coming into the country and going out.

It’s hard to argue with commenter 9ja4Justice.

India: Voter ID may double up as Aadhaar card (Deccan Herald)

“We will have the unique identification numbers provided by the UID printed on the election IDs,” Quraishi said. The single ID would enable the holder to prove his elector credentials and also access the benefits of government services under Aadhaar.

UAE: New technology puts end to passport fraud (Zawya)

Dubai Visitors trying to slip into the country using fake identity documents are increasingly being caught at Dubai International Airport thanks to new passport-reading and biometrics technology designed to root out fraud.