Immigration fixes character bug in SmartGate system

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Immigration fixes character bug in SmartGate system

But only for Aussies.

The Department of Immigration says it has mostly fixed a bug in its border processing system that meant travellers with long names couldn't use SmartGates on arrival to Australia, but it hasn't yet worked out how to rectify the problem for non-locals.

iTnews revealed in April that the system couldn't cope with names containing more than 24 characters.

The identity matching algorithms used by the SmartGate system struggled with the discrepancy between Immigration records of a person's identity - which contained their full name - and the truncated version of their name stored in the machine readable zone (MRZ) of a person's passport.

The MRZ in a passport contains a name field with a size limitation. Where names exceed that limitation, they will be truncated, or reduced.

The bug meant travellers with long names needed to resort to manual processing with the assistance of an Immigration official.

At the time the department said it was working on a fix. It has now confirmed that the issue was resolved last month for Australian and New Zealand travellers.

But it is struggling to fix the problem for travellers of other nationalities arriving in Australia.

Variations in the way other countries store name information in their e-passports has made rectifying the problem for all travellers 'technically complex', the department told iTnews.

It said it was continuing to look at how the name algorithim in the SmartGate system can be adjusted to accommodate non A/NZ travellers with long names.

It pointed out that Australian and New Zealand travellers "represent the highest volume of travellers through arrival SmartGates".

Just under 40 percent of travellers arriving in Australia in 2014-15 were cleared by SmartGates.

Airline pilot Dougall Macpherson enters the country around four times a month, and told iTnews the name bug had been an issue for a year before the department acted on it.

"The Immigration and even SmartGate staff at the airport have literally no idea this problem exists and keep saying it must be the 'chip'," Macpherson told iTnews.

"I even had one Immigration staff member tell me it 'had nothing to do with the length of my name'.

".. I usually have to have the passport rejected and then be processed manually. Absolute waste of everyone's time and resources."

SmartGates were introduced into airport arrival terminals in 2007 thanks to a partnership with Morpho. Travellers with e-passports can use around 61 Morpho gates across A/NZ to match a live image taken of their face with one stored in their passport to clear the border.

Since last year the technology has also been available in departures following a rollout of 92 Vision Box-manufactured gates. The long name bug does not affect departure SmartGates.

Immigration is in the early stages of introducing a new border clearance platform for both incoming and departing travellers, recently awarding a four-year deal to Unisys to implement and roll out the solution.

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