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Experts discuss pandemic shifting of airport biometrics emphasis, as new implementations unveiled


airport facial recognition masks

The adoption of airport biometrics is unlikely to be slowed by the pandemic, experts from Aruba and Vision-Box suggested during the Border Security Conference, and investments appear to be confirming that analysis. SITA is rolling out its Smart Path biometrics in Bahrain, Telos has extended a contract with Philadelphia International and Genetec has won one in Singapore. A theme running through the latest round of announcements is touchless security for more processes.

At the Border Security Conference 2021 event today, Annet Steenbergen, co-founder and initiator of Aruba Happy Flow, noted that she used to list enhanced hygiene last among the benefits of seamless biometric travel processes. The benefits remain the same, but their prioritization has changed.

Aruba’s borders reopened July 2020 with new requirements, and have stayed open since. The system was launched originally in 2015, and matured significantly since, and Steenbergen says Aruba Happy Flow will move soon to implement mobile identity and biometrics enrollment.

COVID test documentation is now just as important as proving identity, but so far lacks the same security requirements, she believes.

Steenbergen reviewed key considerations for enabling the connections between passports, health data and mobile digital credentials, emphasizing not only interoperability and international standards, but also self-sovereign sharing of identity credentials.

She also called the approval last year of the ICAO DTC Type 1 standard a “game-changer.”

In the next presentation, Jeff Lennon of Vision-Box discussed the coordination necessary to make the new EES system work. Ensuring effectiveness and addressing the concerns that increasingly are associated with biometrics, Lennon says, means combining ICAO and ISO standards for image quality, presentation attack detection (PAD) for security, and privacy by design (PbD) to protect passenger data.

At the EU level, Lennon says everything is being done to make sure the systems are coordinated on time. At the member-state level, “the gap is different, to reach compliance.”

He also shared some statistics about average processing time with manual and self-service processes, showing improvements from 40 seconds down to 18 for EU nationals, and even more dramatic improvements for third-country nationals, from 3 and a half minutes down to 1 minute for the initial registration.

Aruba implemented Vision-Box’s Orchestra in one of the first integrations of contactless biometrics for multiple touch-points.

SITA biometrics provide contactless passenger journeys at Bahrain International

SITA has implemented its Smart Path biometrics, SITA Flex, and an airport management system at the new passenger terminal at Bahrain International Airport to assist its COVID-19 recovery with contactless passenger processing.

The technologies provided by SITA allow passengers to perform check-in, baggage and other processes with mobile devices and biometrics, and cloud-based processing. The project is being carried out collaboratively by SITA and Thales under a contract with the Bahrain Ministry of Transport.

“We’re excited to reach this important milestone with Bahrain International Airport, despite the challenges of COVID-19,” states SITA Vice President Sales Roger Nakouzi. “Thanks to new SITA technology, Bahrain International Airport can leap forward and make operations resilient, agile, and safer for all passengers. The implementation allows for deeper integration of Smart Path throughout the airport and further installation of automated systems, future-proofing the airport for decades to come.”

SITA and travel app SimplyGo, meanwhile, have successfully piloted a demonstration of COVID-19 status to meet border entry regulations.

The system combined SITA’s Health Protect ecosystem with Ion Access & Health’s SimplyGo to test the health data platform in a live environment for passengers traveling from Germany and Estonia to the United Arab Emirates. Those who had received negative COVID tests were able to verify their results and board the flights, while those who had received positive tests or not taken one were denied entry.

Biometrics and better masks more help than immunity passports, professor argues

Immunity passports should not be used at airports, at least for the next year, according to an editorial in The Hill, because a lack of standardization could result in long line-ups and fraud.

REAL ID, however, could be used in the future to provide immunization confirmation, writes University of Wisconsin-Madison Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor Dr. Laura A. Albert, who is also a prominent member of operations group INFORMS. Biometric technologies could be implemented in areas like TSA PreCheck lanes to improve health protections.

Albert also calls for passengers to be required to wear better quality masks, as “immunization will not eliminate the need for face coverings.”

Kuala Lumpur International continues digital transformation

A new Passenger Reconciliation System (PRS) is rolling out at Kuala Lumpur International Airport through a collaboration between Malaysia Airports and Malaysia Airlines, with 10 PRS units installed in Terminal 1, and 12 in Terminal 2. The new PRS technology is expected to increase the speed and effectiveness of security screening processes.

The installation comes on the heels of an announcement that KLIA will deploy over 100 biometric touchpoints during the first half of this year at Terminals 1 and 2.

Philadelphia extends Telos contract

Telos has announced that Philadelphia International Airport will continue using its biometric background checking service for individuals working in secure areas.

The TSA-approved Designated Aviation Channeling (DAC) services are used with PHL’s identity management system (IdMS) to improve data integrity, increase operational efficiency and reduce costs, according to the announcement.

Telos has provided the encrypted, web-based DAC solution to PHL since 2017, and the contract has been extended for an additional three years.

“The DAC services deployment at Philadelphia International Airport is notable for its integration with PHL’s IdMS, enabling efficient biographic and biometric transmissions,” says Dawn E. Lucini, vice president of aviation security, Telos. “We have streamlined the TSA-required aviation worker background check process, while upholding the high security and customer service standards at PHL.”

Genetec security platform selected by Singapore airport

Genetec has been selected by Changi Airport Group to provide unified security, public safety, operations, and business intelligence solutions under a three-year contract.

Implementation of the Genetec Security Center platform is expected to be completed in 2023, bringing data from the Singapore airport’s IP security assets together on a single intuitive interface for unified video surveillance.

“Increasingly, our airport customers are understanding the deep business insights Security Center is capable of delivering, its ability to inform and create value for multiple areas of an airport business operation and improve the overall passenger and employee experience,” says Giovanni Taccori, Commercial Lead Transportation, APAC at Genetec, Inc.

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