Airport deployments of facial recognition in Asia-Pacific continue rapid growth

Biometrics deployments for air traveler identification in the Asia-Pacific region are taking off, with several airports updating their roll-out plans and AirAsia announcing plans to extend its facial recognition boarding checks to more destinations.

Passengers at Narita International Airport will be able to board flights with facial biometrics instead of a passport or boarding pass check starting in spring, 2020. The airport says in an announcement it will be the first in the world to allow passengers to board without pausing for identification.

The system is expected to increase convenience for travelers, including those attending the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics, for which a similar fast-matching facial recognition from NEC will be used for athlete screening. Passengers will have facial photos taken at self-service check-in kiosks, where they will enter their passport and boarding pass information. Facial biometrics can then be used for baggage drop safety inspection, and boarding processes.

Low-cost airline AirAsia is also piloting facial recognition security checks for flight boarding at Senai International Airport in Johor, and is planning to roll out the technology to select airports in its home country Malaysia this year, The Edge Markets reports.

The airline is working with various airport authorities and Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd on the roll-out, which is planned for Kuching International Airport and klia2 (Kuala Lumpur International Airport). At the latter airport, the company’s technology will be used for its first cross-border route, between Kuala Lumpur and Avalon Airport in Melbourne.

The Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is on track to use single token identity powered by biometrics to pass through various checkpoints with facial recognition, according to an editorial in the International Airport Review by HKIA General Manager Chris Au Young.

The four automated e-security gates installed by the Airport Authority of Hong Kong (AAHK) in September 2018 are now processing security checks in about 20 seconds, and passenger feedback has been positive, Young says. He also reaffirms HKIA’s goal to install 44 biometric e-security gates by the end of Q1 2019, and to begin upgrading smart check-in kiosks and self-bag drop counters with biometric modules this year, with the ultimate goal of eliminating queue time for passengers.

The AAHK plans to launch the single-token system by early 2020, with HKIA completing e-security gate installations at all 9 transfer points around the airport by the end of 2019.

Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert writes in another International Airport Review editorial that the airport’s trial of facial recognition with Qantas Airways is testing the technology for check in, baggage drop, lounge access, and boarding processes. He also says that the process will extend to biometric mobile check-in and automated border processing, eventually.

“It’s safe to say that biometrics technology will one day be commonplace,” Culbert writes. “We’re already witnessing its rapid uptake in the world of mobile devices and we’ll no doubt continue to see innovative new applications for it. Naturally, airports around the world are considering the enormous benefits to the customer of implementing facial recognition technology. As a leading trial, Sydney Airport’s biometrics initiative will likely inform the adoption of this gamechanging technology across the broader aviation industry.”

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