Heathrow curb-to-gate biometrics said to be world’s biggest single deployment

London’s Heathrow Airport is deploying biometric facial recognition technology to allow travelers to check in and board their flights without showing a passport or boarding pass, in a £50 million project expected to reach operation this summer, which The Times calls “the biggest single deployment of biometric technology in the world.”

Passengers opting into the service will register to have their facial image linked with their passport, though The Times reports the option will not be available immediately to all. For those who do use it, the system also extends to bag drop and security checks. The airport hopes the system will reduce the time of the average passenger journey through the airport by up to a third.

A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport told Express.co.uk that the system does not significantly impact passenger privacy.

“We aren’t going to be asking passengers for any information that they don’t already share when travelling, the spokesperson says. “The technology builds on the biometrics used for domestic passenger travel or when EU citizens cross the border into the UK. It would only match their image to what is stored on the biometric chip on their passport.”

British Airways, which launched border control gates with facial recognition in 2017, said its use of biometrics in the U.S. has cut boarding times in half.

The £50 million upgrade to the Heathrow was announced last year, and Yoti revealed that it is the airport’s biometric technology provider.

Gatwick Airport has also confirmed that it will run a second trial of facial biometrics next month.

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