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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

UAE to phase out immigration officers in favour of AI by 2020

Government officials said artificial intelligence will transform the way national security operates in the country

Dubai airport's security tunnel on display at Gitex last year. The tunnel will be equipped with about 80 cameras that will scan faces while they’re in motion and clear them for security. Satish Kumar for The National
Dubai airport's security tunnel on display at Gitex last year. The tunnel will be equipped with about 80 cameras that will scan faces while they’re in motion and clear them for security. Satish Kumar for The National

Phasing out immigrations officers by 2020 is just one of the ways the UAE plans to use artificial intelligence to increase national security, officials from the Ministry of Interior said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference announcing details of the upcoming International Exhibition for National Security and Resilience in the capital, they said the new Abu Dhabi airport will be equipped with a smart system that eliminates the need for human immigration officers.

“We started with iris scan and face recognition and eventually, we won’t need any immigration officers at all,” said Maj Gen Dr Ahmed Al Raisi, general inspector at the ministry.

Dr Maj Gen Ahmed Al Raisi. Victor Besa / The National
Dr Maj Gen Ahmed Al Raisi. Victor Besa / The National

“People will just be able to walk through and they’ll be scanned. We’re planning to totally eliminate the presence of officers by 2020 hopefully and it will be fully deployed in all the country.”

He said the challenge will remain to well train employees in the field. “Otherwise they can’t work with such systems,” Dr Al Raisi said. “AI is the future, not just for security, but for the whole world.”

He said AI systems would be informed by big data and will completely transform the way in which national security operates across the country.

“We have big data and a lot of information to deliver to the decision-makers – the largest data available in the UAE is at the ministry so AI will allow this amount of information on citizens, residents and visitors to help us keep the country secure.”

The eighth ISNR will showcase the latest technologies in security and the protection of critical infrastructure.

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“It will include cyber-crime, internal security and preparedness for emergencies as well as for major events,” he said.

More than 600 exhibitors and 25,000 visitors from 55 countries are expected at this year’s event, which will include forums on the future of policing, information security, digital forensics, and border control as well as workshops and drills in firefighting and digital information.

“The world is developing and changing and without technology, you can’t do much,” said Brig Dr Jasem Almansoori, deputy inspector general at the ministry. “Cybercrimes are a major challenge and we can’t face them without these new technologies.

“Our laws also have to be changed to adapt to these changes and the government has decided to use AI so we will be upgrading police equipment to suit those changes,” he said.

As AI is poised to play an even bigger role in safety and security in the future, the event will also launch the first Safe City Control Centre, powered by Safe City Group, that will demonstrate state-of- the-art security technologies in operations.

Catering to UAE first responder operators, the simulation will showcase specially designed consoles and control room solutions.

“There will be 20 workshops and more than 50 exhibitors developing solutions for AI for the first time,” said Meline Eolmezian-Soulie, group exhibition director of the security and safety portfolio at Reed Exhibitions.

“The future of policing forum will also introduce the development of new innovations for AI and command and control.”

The UAE plans to rely largely on digital technology to create solutions facing cyber-risks in the future.

“We seek to have a secure cyber-structure to increase security in the country,” said Omar Al Zaabi, deputy director general of the Signals Intelligence Agency (SIA).

“We will have a specialised workshop on digital protection and the significance of cyber-protection.”

Dr Al Raisi said regional instability in countries like Yemen, Syria and Iraq is another threat the country faces.

“We are not in an isolated place,” he said. “We are living in a region which is in state of instability in many parts - the approach the UAE has taken helps reduce these challenges and risks but it does not prevent us from being cautious and apply the latest technologies and applications to protect our country against any risk.”

ISNR will run from March 6 to 8 at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

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