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Face biometrics adoption expands at U.S. airports, Yoti rapid COVID-19 test system trialed at Heathrow

HCL and Amadeus experts discuss innovation for aviation recovery


Tests of biometric facial recognition for touchless domestic flight check-ins will soon begin at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Hartsfield-Jackson Air Service Development Director Elliott Page told the Journal-Constitution that a lot of touchless technology is being fast-tracked. The pilot is expected to begin at some check-in counters in the domestic terminal by the end of the year, with the reference image for facial biometrics pulled from travelers’ identity documents he told attendees of a Japan-America Society webinar. Other measures for reducing the spread of COVID-19 include passenger behavior and movement monitoring through Bluetooth smartphone beacons, and parking payments involving license plate recognition.

Facial recognition was deployed to the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson by Delta in 2018, and the government’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board assessed the implementation at the beginning of 2020.

The Journal-Constitution also notes that Delta has also tested facial recognition for self-service bag drops at the airport, back in 2017.

Ultimately, Hartsfield-Jackson will provide a common-use system for all airlines.

Meanwhile Hawaii Governor David Ige has told state lawmakers that five airports will continue to implement facial biometrics as part of its screening process for arrivals, Travel Weekly writes.

Smart helmet U.S. airport debut in Michigan

Smart helmets with facial biometrics, automatic license plate reading and QR code detection capabilities will be used to perform body temperature scans at Flint Bishop Airport, which according to local ABC affiliate WXYZ will be the first use of the devices of its kind in America.

The helmet is being supplied by Rome-based KeyBiz, and appears in a photograph accompanying the article to be at least very similar in appearance to a product launched by KC Wearable, which were reported in May to be in testing in Italy.

Flint Bishop Airport Director Nino Sapone says the helmet can operate at a distance of up to 21 feet, and will enable random screening of arriving and departing passengers within the terminal by airport police.

TSA Federal Security Director Detroit Field Office Steve Lorincz told MXYZ that the agency is committed to reduce touch points as part of its ‘Stay Healthy, Stay Secure’ campaign, and like the airport is committed to the health and safety of travelers and aviation workers.

Test with Yoti biometrics trialed at Heathrow

Heathrow Airport will begin a trial of Yoti’s FRANKD rapid COVID-19 testing system to help support the safe and confidant return of passengers to air travel, according to a Yoti blog post.

The system is based on a mouth swab procedure developed by GeneMe earlier this year, with the free Yoti app providing selfie biometrics-backed digital identity verification. The test is an RT-LAMP NAAT swab test which delivers 100 percent specific and 97 percent sensitive results within 30 minutes, according to the companies.

“Testing is the lifeline that the UK’s aviation sector needs to get back on its feet,” comments Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye in the blog post. “If we can find a test that is accurate, gets a result within a matter of minutes, is cost-effective and gets the Government green light, we could have the potential to introduce wide-scale testing at the airport.”

“We have partnered with Yoti because their digital ID app is secure and cannot be spoofed,” says GeneMe CTO and FRANKD Developer Kasjan Szemiako.

How effective such measures will be, however, is uncertain. New Centers for Disease Control (CDC) research suggests that asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers can infect several other people during the course of a single flight, as Business Insider reports.

HCL and Amadeus share sector recovery visions

With 50 percent of commercial aircraft out of service and IATA forecasting a 70 percent drop-off in Revenue Passenger Kilometers by through the end of this quarter on a year-over-year basis, HCL Associate Vice President Sam Swaro writes in a blog post that the role of the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, machine learning and biometrics will be more important than ever before. Swaro believes that pre-pandemic forecasts of $25 billion in aviation IoT spending by 2023 are still likely to be realized, with technology adoption accelerating due to COVID-19.

While this will be done in part to improve airport operational efficiency, as before, the highest priority now is increasing passenger confidence.

The way to do so, according to Swaro, is with an IoT platform providing a foundation for connected users, connected products, connected infrastructure, and connected operations to provide indoor and outdoor tracking and tracing capabilities.

Amadeus Global Corporate Communication Manager Juan Giron argues in a LinkedIn post for multimodal reservations that take in all legs of the passenger journey, including ground transportation, to reduce the inconvenience and risk associated with separate having to coordinate reservations and tickets.

The company supports this multimodality with code-sharing agreements between ground carriers and airlines at three international airports, which were used for three million reservations last year. The feasibility of the system was also demonstrated in a proof-of-concept for the European Union. In theory, a new, integrated air transportation system could improve its long-term outlook in part by replacing some of their operations with ground transport.

“Airlines will be able to replace their operations on the less profitable networks, usually flights of less than 400 km, with ground transport companies’ operations, achieving an added sustainability effect. This would also enable them to extend short-haul networks where previously they did not intend to fly. If multimodality is included in bilateral agreements, airlines will be able to market domestic networks in third countries,” explained Amadeus Senior Advisor Felipe González Abad during a recent Skål Club webinar.

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