Tony Chapman: The IATA Fast Travel programme is an initiative that was started several years ago to offer self-service capabilities across a number of airport activities.They include check-in, bags ready-to-go, document check, flight rebooking, self-boarding and bag recovery.
Biometrics are not explicitly components of these initiatives, but they now fully support them. The IATA One ID management programme aims for digital proof of identity and a single token - such as biometric facial recognition - that encompasses a passenger's travel document and boarding pass. This single token would be used and reused after the passenger has first been identified, authenticated and biometrically verified. This would reduce the need for a passenger to present multiple documents at several touchpoints.
Using biometrics today as part of the airport screening process provides the opportunity to be as good as - if not better than - current manual-screening processes. I say this because biometrics provide more consistent results. Whether in operation for eight or 80 hours, the technology does not suffer from fatigue in the way a person might. It screens exactly the same way, every time.
Additionally, new technological innovations and standards are becoming more commonplace at airports, and are providing increasingly accurate results. The accuracy of the cameras used and the processing power of the equipment, as well as the methodology and algorithms, are all improving.
The ARINC product sets are being developed to include biometric-based passenger identity management that enables the single-token journey previously mentioned. It also improves security and enhances passenger flow.
Biometric registration can be enabled at the first passenger touchpoint. This means that the biometric token is combined with the passenger's boarding pass and biographic data to enable them to pass through the landside/airside boundary controlled by VeriPax technology. This allows previously stored boarding pass and passenger biographic data to be retrieved while also validating the flight details.
The technology can also potentially be used to perform outbound immigration checks at a single point, while registration can be completed as part of the desk-based check-in process at a self-service kiosk or self-bag-drop.
By enabling full identity management on self-service systems, a further check is made to validate the passenger at that touchpoint. Comparing a captured facial image to the one stored on a passport, the technology ensures the passenger performing the transaction is the owner of said passport.
Most systems today are based on a facial biometric, which makes sense as a facial image is encoded on epassports and an automated passport-to-facial-image match can be used to confirm identities. When facial identification is not appropriate, registered traveller programmes will be used. This allows alternate biometric modalities, such as iris or fingerprint identification.
Currently, we see the biggest challenge to global implementation being data privacy concerns, and ensuring that the data is held in an encrypted form and not shared.
Companies such as Rockwell Collins are already working to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to improve the process even further. For example, rather than trying to map a face into a series of geometric points, Rockwell Collins is using AI to recognise a face and determine whether it's the same person based on a self-learning AI algorithm.
The long-term aim, as is the case with the IATA One ID initiative, is to use the biometric token to enable cross-border travel for the vast majority of travellers, without them having to produce a passport. We think of it as the 'single-token' experience.