Biometric ID Management in Airports: New Concept in Light

by November 10, 2018 0 comments

Biometrics transforming air travel

Biometric ID management initiatives are still new, but is bound to create a walk-through experience at airports. It will require smart integration along with next generation access-control systems.

The world is moving towards an increasingly digital era which is not only defining businesses but human lives as well. Emergence of new age technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and biometrics have been gaining popularity owing to the potential of creating a seamless, efficient and secured environment. These technologies have opened doors to several benefits such as securely accessing bank accounts, making payments, or log into secure web accounts with the touch of a finger, and even more recently, by looking into the built-in camera. Such simple and seamless user experience is driving the adoption of biometrics as a way of confirming identity, and we will continue to witness it in many aspects of our lives, including air travel.

When it comes to air travel, the age of automation has dawned upon us. This has led to an increased demand for solutions which are seamless, secure and time-saving — from purchasing a ticket to checking in for a flight or dropping luggage off at the airport.

Air travel in India has seen a massive growth over the last few years with India expected to become the world’s third largest aviation market by the year 2026. The Government had announced that India had become the world’s third largest domestic civil aviation market, with passenger traffic of over 100 million during 2016-17.

With such increase in passenger numbers in the recent years, automation will be key to meet this growth. And airports and airlines have turned to technologies like biometrics to better manage the flow of passenger through the airport.

Using biometrics allow passengers to be quickly identified, ensuring a quick check in through the airport. According to SITA’s Air Transport IT Insights, over the next three years, 77 per cent of airports and 71 per cent airlines are planning major programmes or research and development (R&D) in biometric ID management.

People today have welcomed this new advancement in technology with open arms as more than a third of passengers were reported to use automated ID control or biometrics on their last flight and majority of them would definitely use biometrics on their next flight.

The emergence of single biometric token, which allows passengers to be identified by their biometrics without showing documents such as a passport or boarding pass, is probably the most exciting development for flyers hoping to fast track through the airport. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also discovered that every four out of five travelers are keen to use a “digital passport” on their smartphones for as many travel activities as possible.

The use of biometric ID management initiatives today is still in its infancy. Creating a walk-through experience will require smart integration of biometrics with next generation access-control systems, as well as with the existing airline and airport systems.

Today, while there are limitations in terms of sharing biometric data across borders or between airports, the SITA believes that with greater collaboration between the airlines, airports and most the control agencies across the globe, it is possible to develop advanced frameworks in the future which will be developed to facilitate data exchange securely and under the passenger’s control.

Once this is in place, a traveler need not enroll their biometric at every airport, or with every country. They can do it once and just travel between airports and between countries, using the same biometric credentials.

Globally, many airports and airlines have already started to roll out ID management based on biometric technology within their own airport environment. Airports such as Muscat, Orlando and Brisbane airports have taken the first steps towards implementing e-boarding process and automated passenger ID checks, where passengers can use just their face as their passport or boarding card.

SITA has already seen the benefits of this biometric technology. In the US, working with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) and British Airways, the company was able to incorporate the US biometric exit check into the boarding process for passengers at Orlando International Airport (MCO).

In the trial, passengers flying with British Airways from MCO to London Gatwick, can enjoy a secure and seamless departure with a new biometric boarding system at the gate. A quick photo is all they need to board the international flight — no passport and no boarding card — thanks to the innovative technology. The automated boarding gates are integrated with the Customs and Border Protection’s and airline’s IT systems to allow the necessary checks and authorise boarding.

Results have been positive from the outset of the trial, with nearly 100 per cent of passengers opting to simply look in the camera and board the plane. The expedited boarding process is a popular one. The British Airways is reporting that it has started boarding flights of almost 240 customers in around 15 minutes. By merging the usual boarding procedures with the CBP biometric exit check, the trial has succeeded in delivering a smooth experience for passengers.

Our vision for the future in India has been in context to the India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation’s decision to work with the air transport industry to create a “digitally unified flying experience”. We believe that such steps will facilitate passenger processing smoothly and help establish India as one of the most efficient travel systems present in the world.

With the Indian Government’s DigiYatra initiative. which is set to revolutionise the flying experience for passengers and place the Indian Aviation industry as one of the most efficient and innovative air networks in the world, we have come up with our SmartPath solution, which can empower a passenger to complete various steps during their journey through airport by using just their face as identity.

An individual’s document such as their national biometric identification cards and foreigner’s passports could be linked with the databases of airlines, airports and other stakeholders to provide a seamless and secure travel experience at every step in the journey. While several solutions such as biometric tend to simplify and digitise the air travel industry, it is the passengers who would ultimately benefit from it upon implementation at airports and by airlines worldwide.

(The writer is Vice President, Indian Subcontinent, Eastern & Southern Africa, SITA)

Writer: Maneesh Jaikrishna
Source: The Pioneer

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