SITA researching blockchain technology to store travelers ID details

May 26, 2016 - 

SITA is researching blockchain technology as a platform that allows passengers to create and store their own secure biometric profile on their smartphone that could serve as proof of identity in an effort to streamline airport security processes, according to a report by Air Transport World.

Airlines, security, border controls and other airport services could quickly scan the passenger’s biometric “token” to verify their identity, which would cut down on long queues and waiting periods.

The passenger would retain all biometric data, but the certified identity validation would be stored on the blockchain database and cannot be altered or erased.

Blockchain technology, which is a public database that allows “privacy by design”, has been successfully used in recent years to secure Bitcoin transactions.

The technology could ensure that the passenger data is secure, encrypted, tamper-proof and unusable for any other purpose. This would ultimately provide a “network of trust” in which the source and history of the data is verifiable by all parties.

“Ultimately the blockchain is simply a database where transactions are recorded and confirmed anonymously,” said SITA CTO Jim Peters. “Whether it is used for currency or travel it is simply a record of events that is shared between multiple parties, but most importantly once information is entered, it cannot be changed, and privacy and security are by design.”

SITA’s research team is using facial recognition technology, which allows passengers to take a selfie as part of their biometric profile.

Airline, border agency or other agency would then be able to take a photo of the passenger and compare it against the biometric data stored on the mobile device, creating a “seal” that other agencies can use as authorization to travel.

This biometric authentication process could eliminate the need for multiple travel documents, all without requiring passengers to share their private information.

Additionally, the technology could decrease complexity, cost and liability around document checks throughout the entire airport process. And since the “token” is stored on the passenger’s mobile device, it could theoretically be used anywhere around the globe to verify the passenger as an authorized traveler.

“Our vision is for seamless, secure travel,” Peters said. “To date, technology has provided SITA the opportunity to do that at many airports and at more than 30 of the world’s borders. But the underlying design of today’s computer systems means that there are multiple exchanges of data between various agencies and multiple verification steps, which reduces the ability to have a single global system.

“Now blockchain technology offers us the potential to provide a new way of using biometrics. It could enable biometrics to be used across borders, and at all airports, without the passenger’s details being stored by the various authorities.”

SITA’s technology research team SITA Lab has also been collaborating with blockchain startup ShoCard on developing an early demo of these concepts.

Previously reported, SITA announced Smart Path, a solution that lets passengers move through an airport and board aircraft using biometrics to verify their identity instead of having to present a boarding pass, a passport or travel documents.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.