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Biometrics in the Airport of the Future


Amadeus, IT solutions provider to the travel and tourism industry, released a report on May 24, “Reinventing the Airport Ecosystem”. It states the airport environment will be unrecognizable by 2025 as the industry will deliver a “streamlined, stress free and holistic service.” Technology will play a major part in the changes that will follow.

For the past several years, technology has benefited the aviation industry. Since switching to e-ticketing, bar-coded boarding passes and self-service kiosks, it has saved the industry about $5.5 billion a year.

Technology will continue to play an important role by 2025. For one, premium travelers will be able to check-in offsite without passing through a terminal but go through a virtual screening process en-route. Smartphones will expand capabilities from simply receiving notifications. Near Field Communications (NFC) technology embedded in smartphones or travel documents will fast-track passengers through check-ins and other facilities within the airport.

50 selected passengers at Tolouse-Blagnac Airport in France this summer will be using SIM-based NFC on Blackberry devices, on a trial basis, to access car parking, boarding area and a premium passenger lounge.

Based on the survey performed by Amadeus, the majority of people prefer “non-invasive solutions” such as location-based tracking and electronic tags, as opposed to “behavioral, biological and implant solutions.” Trade-offs, however, will be in the form of customers providing more information or data for verification purposes.

Biometric information will be used everywhere by 2025 as sensors will be installed to match and identify passengers. Airports including the United Kingdom’s Gatwick, Heathrow and City airports are using already sensors. Additional information may be needed in the future such as genetic profiling and behavioral traits.

By 2025, travelers are expected to load their own bags, which frequent fliers in Australian hubs with a new Quantas system are already doing now. For elderly and other less able travelers needing assistance to navigate the airport, there will be ground handlers to assist them as less airline personnel are needed to man the desks or counters.

Major changes in airport landscapes

Amadeus predicts that airports will no longer just cater to travelers and tourists but will become self-sufficient mini-city or resort-style destinations.

Such are the cases in Singapore’s Changi Airport, Seoul’s Incheon Airport and Munich Airport. Singapore’s Changi Airport is used by residents as dining and hang-out hub. In retail spending alone, Changi Airport has generated $1.18 billion in 2011. Seoul’s Incheon Airport is planning to build a $3 billion resort to attract Chinese tourists. Munich Airport has hosted volleyball tournaments, mini golf and a Christmas market.

More high-tech facilities will be installed such as the case in Copenhagen Airport where reality app guides passengers, or digital cameras monitoring queues or holograms welcoming and guiding passengers to board.

Hopefully, this will provide the “wonder and magic” associated with air travel which 43 percent of travelers are seeking, based on the survey conducted by Amadeus.

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