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INVENTIONS

French invent robots to replace border police

New airport technology unveiled at the Paris Air Show this week by French company Thales promises robots to replace immigration officers.

French invent robots to replace border police
The days of humans checking your passport could soon be over. Photo: AFP

French electrical systems company Thales premiered its new equipment designed to speed up passage through airports.

In their vision of the future, passengers will no longer deal with check-in desks — an innovation already making inroads in many airports.

To take that even further, Thales has designed a machine that not only scans passports and prints boarding passes, but also records an image of the passenger's face and iris, which are then shared with computers around the airport.

The images are already in the system when the passenger arrives at the immigration desk, allowing a tall, white robot to automatically confirm the person's identity without the need for human border staff.


(A woman tests the new technology. Photo: AFP)

“You would only need one agent for every four or five machines,” said Pascal Zenoni, a Thales manager presenting the equipment at the air show.

“These systems can free up staff for the police and create more space in the airport,” he added.

The passenger's face is also printed in encrypted form on the boarding pass so that it can be scanned by staff at the gate for a final identity check.

Thales hopes to build on its expertise as the maker of biometric passports and ID cards for 25 countries, including France.

Perhaps robots will be drafted in at French airports where the border police have been criticized for not being polite enough.

Last week the French foreign minister unveiled a new campaign aimed at making France more polite for visitors. It includes one measure that will force border police to say “Hello, “thank you” and “goodbye” to every passenger as they check their passport. (see link below)

Thirteen ways France aims to become more welcoming

Meanwhile, in another air show stand, competitors Safran discussed their new systems for coping with the giant amount of data being collected on passengers.

Their new analytical system from subsidiary Morpho, which begins live testing in France in September, is expected to gather data on more than 100 million passengers from up to 230 airlines per year.

It sifts through the records, checking against over 300 behavioural “warning signs” — signals the company is loathe to discuss in detail.

It also checks it against Interpol and other police records, searching primarily for terrorists and organised criminals.

Morpho is a world leader in criminal identification, running biometric systems for the FBI and other clients.

Although similar systems already exist at airports in the United States, Safran says current competitors throw up too many errant warnings, and can take months to alter.


(A woman tests the new technology. Photo: AFP)

“Our priority has always been to reduce the number of false alarms,” said Samuel Fringant, from Morpho's Security Division. “Our system adapts constantly from the information it receives.”

“That is necessary because you are always in a race between the people operating the system and people trying to cheat it,” added Luc Tombal, from the company's border control business unit.

As well as France, the company is expected to finalise a deal in the coming months to provide the system to Estonia.

The Paris Air Show is the world's top showcase for the aerospace industry, expected bring together over 2,000 exhibitors and 300,000 visitors as it runs through Sunday.

SEE ALSO : Where would the US be without France!

 

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INVENTIONS

Paris to Rome in one hour: France backs the Hyperloop

Imagine Paris to Marseille in just 40 minutes, or Paris to Rome in just over one hour. French rail chiefs believe it's not just a pie in the sky idea.

Paris to Rome in one hour: France backs the Hyperloop
Photo: Hyperloop Transport Technologies

Hyperloop One startup, intent on zipping people along at near-supersonic speeds in pressurized tubes, announced Tuesday that the French national rail company had joined its growing list of backers.

Hyperloop One said that it raised $80 million in fresh funding from an array of investors, including GE Ventures and France's SNCF.

“The overwhelming response we've had already confirms what we've always known, that Hyperloop One is at the forefront of a movement to solve one of the planet's most pressing problems,” Hyperloop One co-founder Shervin Pishevar said.

“The brightest minds are coming together at the right time to eliminate the distances and borders that separate economies and cultures.”

While the idea of the Hyperloop replacing France's already high-speed TGV services might seem a little too far-fetched at the moment, French rail chiefs clearly see some potential in the project.

So why not all ow us to dream a little.

With Hyperloop's average speed of 970km/hour, imagine all the cities in France being within an hour's travelling time from Paris. Paris to Marseille for example could take as little as 40 minutes – the time spent by many commuters on the Paris Metro each morning.

A trip to Rome on the Hyperloop would also be little over an hour away and Berlin would be 55 minutes according to very, very early guesstimates.

Pishevar and Brogan BamBrogan founded Hyperloop One, originally named Hyperloop Technologies, in 2013 to make real Elon Musk's well-researched vision of a lightning-fast transport system with the potential to transform how people live.

Musk outlined his futuristic idea in a paper released in 2013, challenging innovators to bring the dream to life.

Hyperloop One, one of the startups that picked up the gauntlet Musk threw down, plans a demonstration Wednesday in the desert outside Las Vegas to show what it has accomplished so far.

BamBrogan also promised a “full-scaled, full-speed” demo by the end of the year.

“It's not just a faster train; it is an absolute on-demand experience,” he said during a presentation here late Tuesday.

“It leaves when you get there and goes directly to your destination.”

He went on to playfully describe Hyperloop as having such a controlled environment that it would be “elevator smooth” as well as “pet friendly, kid friendly, grandma friendly.”

Hyperloop One is so confident in the speed at which the project is moving that it announced a global challenge in which businesses, governments, citizens, academics and others can submit proposals for where the systems should be built.

“Just like an Olympics bidding process, we want to understand the great ideas in the world and then extract the best one,” Hyperloop One chief executive Rob Lloyd said.

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