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Facial Imaging Technology Installed in Hawai‘i’s Airports as Part of Ongoing Effort Against COVID

May 18, 2021, 3:01 PM HST
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The Hawai‘i Department of Transportation (HDOT) Airports Division has installed facial imaging technology at Hawaii’s five major airports in the state’s continued efforts to detect COVID-19 in the state.

Phase III of the thermal temperature screening and facial imaging project will help airport representatives pull passengers aside who have been detected to have an elevated core body temperature of 100.4 degrees and higher, a common symptom of COVID-19, by thermal screening cameras installed in Phase I and Phase II.

“Hawai‘i continues to implement proactive measures in response to the pandemic and this is one part of a multi-layered process designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of the community,” said Gov. David Ige. “Utilizing technology such as the thermal temperature screening and facial imaging equipment will also add efficiency to the passenger verification process and bring Hawaii closer to reaching the new normal at our airports.”

Phase I and Phase II, completed in 2020, installed thermal screening cameras at all arrival gates to screen passengers as they deplane the aircraft. The technology was created by the NEC Corporation.

Those detected with a core body temperature of 100.4 degrees and higher will have their image taken. The image will be available for airport representatives to identify and pull the person aside as they approach the nearest monitoring control room located in the airport terminal. If a manual temperature check confirms the initial temperature reading, the passenger will have an additional medical screening which includes the option to have a COVID-19 sample taken.

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“We believe combining our world-class technology with local Hawai‘i businesses has proven to be the right approach to addressing this difficult digital transformation challenge,” said Toshifumi Yoshizaki, Executive Vice President, NEC Corporation. “The innovation resulting from the project has contributed to the state’s ability to continue accepting trans-Pacific flights while reducing the potential risk for infection.”

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HDOT partnered with a team led by NEC Corporation in July 2020 on the project. The thermal screening equipment has been operational since August 2020. The combined thermal screening and facial imaging equipment began operations at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Kahului Airport (OGG), Lihue Airport (LIH), Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA) and Hilo International Airport (ITO) in early 2021, after personnel was trained in operating the system.

“With the completion of Phase III, HDOT can feel confident in the measures taken to protect the health and safety of its travelers and residents as tourism revives in the state,” said Raffie Beroukhim, Chief Experience Officer for NEC Corporation of America. “We are incredibly proud of NEC’s ability to successfully complete all three phases on time and on budget, and are honored to provide the technology solutions that help bring tourism and air travel in the state of Hawaii closer to the new normal.”

Officials say the use of thermal screening and facial imaging technology is safer and more cost-effective than manual temperature checks.

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“Without the technology, employees would need to be stationed at each gate for every arriving flight to individually take the passenger’s temperature one by one, which takes longer, increases the risk of exposure and requires additional funding and resources,” HDOT states. “With the technology, an employee can simultaneously monitor multiple gates from a control room in an efficient and safe manner.”

Any images collected will remain anonymous, meaning no traveler’s image will be connected to personal information, such as a traveler’s name, address or driver’s license number. It will not contain information about criminal history or outstanding warrants. The image will be deleted within 30 minutes and will not be shared with any outside agencies. People with a temperature of 100.3 degrees and lower will not have their image taken at all.

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