New airport biometrics deployments and technologies on the horizon

New airport biometrics deployments and technologies on the horizon

U.S. government biometric checks are being launched in Las Vegas and discussed in Seattle, and the industry is discussing the opportunities and challenges of facial recognition implementations at the APEX Expo 2019. Meanwhile, Delta continues to set out its plans for further expansions of its biometrics use, and European airlines are developing biometric pre-registration through a mobile app.

Sea-Tac facial recognition expansion debated

The Port of Seattle hosted a panel discussion with technologists, travel executives, civil rights activists and ethics experts to debate the expansion of facial recognition at Sea-Tac Airport, in light of what GeekWire calls an aggressive push by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to implement the technology.

Groups including OneAmerica and the ACLU argued that facial recognition could disproportionately affect minorities and vulnerable groups of people. Panelist Stephanie Gupta of the American Association of Airport Executives noted that photos of U.S. citizens taken during the process are discarded within 24 hours, and also said that 185 people have been detected attempting to enter the U.S. with false credentials so far this year.

Delta Director for Passenger Facilitation Jason Hausner said that less than two percent of people opt out, and boarding speed has been increased by around 10 percent during peak times. The airline plans to roll out facial recognition at Sea-Tac as early as Q4 2019.

Microsoft Ethics Strategist Jacquelyn Krones recommended the implementation of “reasonable limitations to data sharing agreements,” noting that “(t)here’s a concern that once you are in a facial recognition system, it could be used anywhere. That really depends on how data is shared and how responsible data controllers and processors are about those agreements.”

GeekWire reports that several Port commissioners seemed to be sceptical of facial recognition.

“Every time you sign on to process data and give it to a third party, whether it’s with CBP or a vendor, you can impose limitations as to when they delete the data, where else the data goes,” said Commissioner Courtney Gregoire, who is also an assistant general council for Microsoft. “Just for the record, everyone knows what happens when you don’t have a data-sharing agreement that has limitations. It’s called Cambridge Analytica.”

The Port of Seattle will meet again in October to discuss guidelines for the implementation after reviewing the perspectives shared during the panel.

JetBlue eyes biometrics expansion

In a keynote at the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) Expo 2019 in Los Angeles, JetBlue President and COO Joanna Geraghty suggested biometric solution are the way to reduce the stress that 90 percent of passengers are affected by at the airport.

Creating the right environment means going beyond government-mandated checkpoints, however.

“Our focus has been on extending the biometric solution to the entire traveling public, so you don’t have to pay money to be part of the program,” she says.

Geraghty also acknowledges privacy challenges, and that optional participation numbers may partly reflect a lack of awareness among travellers of their options. Less comprehensive photo-matching databases for domestic travellers could pose a challenge for implementing biometric processes for them, but says the company plans to address the issue, without providing details.

Star Alliance to launch NEC tech early next year

The first new biometric solution resulting from the partnership announced in July between Star Alliance and NEC will be launched early next year, according to APEX.

Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh praises NEC’s experience and credentials with biometric systems, but also notes the importance of ensuring biometric data remains with individuals, saying that consent to use the personal data will be obtained at each specific biometric touchpoint.

“Our strategy is for a traveler to be able to enroll his or her biometric data once, and then use it multiple times in multiple places,” said Goh. “But I think we shouldn’t make the mistake to think this is just a walk in the park. We recognize the challenges. We should be able to educate, to bring more awareness to the benefits of loading and using biometric data.”

TSA McCarran test

Details of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) biometric checkpoint trial at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport continue to emerge, as Airport Technology reports that the facial biometric system will be trialed in the Innovation Checkpoint area, located in Terminal 3.

“The Innovation Checkpoint at McCarran International Airport is an exciting initiative that provides TSA with the unique opportunity to demonstrate multiple solutions and capabilities by various vendors in one physical environment without interrupting current airport operations,” comments TSA Assistant Administrator for Requirements and Capabilities Analysis Austin Gould.

“Our long-term vision is that this checkpoint will serve as an innovative sandbox for the entire agency to demonstrate new strategies and solutions that will ultimately increase security effectiveness, heighten the passenger experience and deliver enhanced capabilities to our frontline personnel.”

Four lanes have been equipped with the technology, and TSA is displaying new digital signage to notify passengers of screening procedures and other information. In addition to biometric screening, the checkpoint also includes credential authentication technology, and scanners for cabin luggage and passengers themselves.

Delta touts leadership

Delta is touting its leadership in the adoption of biometrics, having implemented biometric boarding in four more airports since launching its “biometric terminal” in Atlanta last year. Describing what it calls “a taste of the future today,” the airline also reiterated its plans to launch its next biometric terminal at Detroit Metro Airport (DTW), which it notes already has launched biometric self-service kiosks for check-in.

In addition to its active trials and commercial deployments, in the three years since it began working with biometrics, Delta has tested a self-service biometric bag drop at Minneapolis-St. Paul, biometric boarding at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and has launched optional biometric check-in for its Delta Sky Clubs.

IAG to launch home biometric registration

British Airways and Iberia owner International Airlines Group (IAG) is planning to is planning to allow passengers to register their facial biometrics from home using a mobile app as part of its biometric boarding procedure in the near future, according to a Google translation of an article on Hosteltur.

IAG has launched the Hangar 51 global innovation program to identify startups it can collaborate with on its technological development and digital transformation. Iberia also plans greater personalization, with virtual assistants and connected cabins among the new technology it plans to implement.

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