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HDOT Selects Passenger Screening Technology for State’s Airports

July 16, 2020, 1:00 PM HST
* Updated July 16, 12:57 PM
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The photograph illustrates an example of the technology to be used at Hawaii’s airports to help identify people with an elevated temperature of 100.4 degrees or above. (PC: HDOT)

Thermal temperature screening equipment will be installed at all Hawai‘i’s airports this month at gates currently being used for arriving trans-Pacific flights as a continued effort to stem the spread COVID-19.

The Hawai‘i Department of Transportation announced today it had selected NEC Corporation, NEC Corporation of America and their partner, Infrared Cameras Inc., to provide thermal temperature screening and facial imaging technology at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Kahului Airport (OGG), Līhu‘e Airport (LIH), Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA) and Hilo International Airport (ITO).

“Taking these steps to implement the technology at our airports shows our commitment to providing preventative measures against COVID-19 for the community,” said Gov. David Ige. “We recognize that temperature screening won’t catch every infected passenger, but it is an available tool that can be implemented and combined with the additional measures the State is providing to help prevent the spread of this virus, while helping rebuild the economy.”

NEC and Infrared Cameras were selected with a proposal of $23.3 million for equipment and installation and a 10-year maintenance plan of $1.42 million annually for a total contract amount of $37.5 million. The system will be installed in three phases.

The first phase is currently happening with the installation of temperature scanners at gates currently being used for arriving trans-Pacific flights. The second phase will have temperature scanners installed at the remaining gates in the coming weeks. The third phase will install facial imaging equipment by Dec. 31, 2020.

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“We are honored to become a part of this significant project for Hawai‘i towards the revival of tourism and businesses in the state,” said Toshifumi Yoshizaki, Senior Vice President, NEC Corporation. “We believe NEC’s technology will help to ensure the safety and health of visitors and residents of Hawai‘i against COVID-19, and our team will make every effort to ensure the success of this public and private joint project together with all of the partner companies.”

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The facial imaging technology component of the system has caused some concern in the community. In June, the American Civil Liberties Union emailed a letter to state officials over their fears the technology could be violating constitutional and privacy rights.

“While we understand the urgent need to fight the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopen Hawai‘i’s economy, the indiscriminate and rushed use of FRT—particularly without adequate regulations, transparency, and public discussion—is ineffective, unnecessary, rife for abuse, expensive, potentially unconstitutional, and, in a word, “terrifying,” ACLU’s Legal Director Mateo Caballero stated in the letter.

In Thursday’s press release, HDOT stated people “should not think of the features they may have seen in a movie.”

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The system incorporates privacy protections from design to deployment and NEC will work with HDOT throughout this process to ensure the solution meets the requirements of the State of Hawai‘i.

The system, HDOT officials added, will only temporarily retain a picture of a person with an elevated temperature of 100.4 degrees and above to help airport representatives identify them and conduct additional assessments to determine if health precautions are necessary.

“The picture will be erased within 30 minutes and will not be shared with any outside agencies,” officials stated. “Anyone with a temperature below 100.4 degrees will not have their image retained at all.”

Additionally, the system will not have a person’s personal information, such as their name, address or driver’s license number. It will not contain information about criminal history or outstanding warrants.

“The use of the thermal image capture technology is anticipated to be safer and more cost-effective than manual temperature checks,” according to HDOT officials. “Without the use of facial imaging technology, an employee would need to be next to each camera at all times to pull a person aside as they walk by the camera, creating bottlenecks and further exposing employees to travelers and, thus, possible COVID-19 infection.”

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