Atlanta Airport opens World’s first complete Biometrics Terminal.

Tired of hour longs custom lines, baggage claims, and the security checks? Imagine you just had to look at a scanner, capture image of your face and get access to a flight.

After the events of 9/11, the shift in Airport’s security protocols shifted dynamically, especially in the US. The threats required Airport authorities in coordination with US Customs and Border Protection to implement a strong approach toward risk management, especially for inbound flights. Following their steps, many other countries have adopted a similar protocol. Yet, we can agree that there is a dire need to upgrade the checking systems. Now that the technology has developed enough to support it.

Biometrics have come a long way far in terms of their relevance and sophistication. Industries big and large are opting to change their legacy on-boarding processes for customers’ ease. With the latest updates in the Face Verification technology, the AI system have been enough trained to take over human processes. Couple that with an automated process to verify travel documents, and security sensors for physical inspections the step towards Airports’ Biometrics is an expected one.

Airline Industry is gradually adopting Biometrics

The Airline Technology giant SIAT has estimated that within next 5 years 77% of Airports and 71% of Airlines will have R&D started in order to opt for biometrics powered access controls.

Hartsfield-Jackson, Logan and JFK in close coordination with airline giants like British Airways, Lufthansa, and Delta have introduced a few biometrics sensors on a few terminal points as a start. With the giants of the aviation agency relying on automated approach towards collecting travellers’ information and releasing tickets, the tone is being set for other industry wide.

Heathrow Airport after a test trial of 4 months has officially launched its end-to-end facial recognition system in October, 2018 and aims to completely adopt a biometric approach towards security and checks protocols by Summer of 2019.

Hamad International Airport is perhaps one of the busiest in the world owing to connecting flights. Which means it welcomes travellers from different regions and hosts the most airlines in the world as well. 2018 has been a busy year for the airport with an increase in 10.6% increase in the inbound ratio travellers compared to previous years. To meet the growing numbers, the authorities are working with several key-players in the Biometrics industry to build a security system that reduces time and labour on part of both the administration and the passengers. The main purpose of doing so is to get ready for FIFA 2022.

The role of Airports vs Airlines

The biometric security system will be a closely coordinated effort between airports and airlines. Apart from baggage claims, and access, there is a pre-booking phase as well which requires travellers to submit their personal information. The information received is allotted a risk factor. Based on the high or low risk factor the concerned parties are able to take necessary actions. It is an excellent way to curb easy access for terrorists or criminals as the information collected is run through government level databases and sanction lists. The results are received in real-time which gives authorities opportunity to take on the spot actions.

The use of personal information is a topic of debate among many as to what constitutes legal collection. But it is also a necessity to cover enough information to securely process onboarding via digital mediums.

Concerns:
  • Who has access to the face prints collected?
  • How will this data be used?
  • Do travellers get an “opt-out” option?

When Heathrow trialed and then implemented Biometric Authentication, it had a poll where 2% of the passengers opted-out of the face verification process and chose physical checks option. While the figure doesn’t appear to be significant, it is safe to say that concerns will remain.

Despite the concerns Airports are expecting to go fully biometric in face of sudden increases in number of travellers. In 2018, at least 1.2 Billion passengers from just 20 selected airports around the world. Considering these numbers, it is definitely a need to optimise the current on-boarding process to a digitised system which and reduce manual labour.

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