SingHealth tests NEC facial recognition technology for hospital visits

Visitors to Singapore’s SingHealth Tower and Outram Community Hospital can now simply scan their faces at a portal to enter the buildings, thanks to a new facial recognition system that is being tested for possible future use.

Before visiting, they can pre-register online through the national Singpass ID system’s facial verification process, and then simply have their faces recognized on an in-building portal to gain access.

The facial recognition system only stores a photo of a visitor’s face – for authentication at the gantry – during a patient’s stay, according to Japanese tech giant NEC, which is providing the technology.

The system, which will be tested for six months, can also detect the temperature of visitors and only let in those who do not have a fever.

SingHealth, the largest healthcare group in Singapore, set up the biometric authentication system to provide users with convenience and smoother visitor flow, especially during visiting hours.

So far, visitors have to manually register with their physical ID cards at an on-site kiosk or registration counter for about 10 minutes. Not only did this require staff to man the facilities, but it also slowed down visitors.

However, SingHealth will continue to have registration desks and kiosks for those who need time to become familiar with the system and for those who still prefer manual registration, said Tan Jack Thian, SingHealth’s group chief operating officer.

Users must register online prior to their visit using Singpass’s verification process. PHOTO: NEC

While face recognition isn’t new in Singapore – Changi Airport, for example, uses eye and face scanning for contactless travel – the new attempt is interesting because the biometrics technology is used alongside Singapore’s national digital ID, Singpass.

Besides their face, a user uses a form of digital identification that is trusted and reliable as it is government verified. This is more accurate and secure than simply scanning a passport or ID card.

According to Integrated Health Information Systems, the health-tech agency of the Singapore Ministry of Health, which worked with NEC to install the system, the Singpass integration was critical to setting up the study.

“This is the first time that facial verification technology will be implemented in a physical health environment,” said executive vice chairman Ong Leong Seng.

“We integrated the security features, simplified the registration process and enabled a contactless experience on the portals,” he added. “It is expected to benefit more than 300 visitors per day, saving each visitor about 10 minutes for registration.”


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