Airports continue to deploy biometrics as SSI ‘big wave’ approaches
Airports are rolling out biometrics rapidly to improve security checks, as with a new reservation lane Clear is powering, boarding, as discussed by an expert from Amadeus, and other processes, even as self-sovereign ID looms as a potential sea-change, as a panel including an Evernym representative explains. Vision-Box is celebrating at Expo 2020, secunet has deployed technology to three airports, and Elenium has partnered to fulfil a U.S. federal government contract.
The potential for digital ID in the hospitality and travel industry to be disrupted for the better by self-sovereign identity was emphasized in a recent CAPA Live event presented by the Center for Aviation.
TravelScrum Co-founder and Chairman Gene Quinn described self-sovereign ID (SSI) as “a big wave of change that’s coming,” and advised that organizations can “ride this wave by swimming at it, greeting it, and rolling gently over it as it heads to shore, or you can be caught in the shore-break and have it consume you later.”
Nick Price of the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF) and Jamie Smith of Evernym joined Quinn for the discussion.
Price, who is chair of DIF’s Hospitality and Travel Special Interest Group, reviewed what SSI is. He compared SSI to TCP/IP in the 1970s and ‘80s, HTTP and browsers from the late ‘80s to the mid-‘90s, and the GSM and mobile revolution from the early ‘90s into the aughts, as generational disruptions.
Smith further described the technology and how it works, in simple terms, with reference to the example of using the IATA Travel Pass for international air travel.
The key characteristics are the openness of the system, the centrality of the individual and their digital wallet as the data store, and privacy protection, according to Smith, and like Price, he believes it will be as disruptive as the cloud and artificial intelligence. It will enable “new partnerships, ecosystems, products, customer experiences, that we’ve never seen before.”
Travel and hospitality today hold huge amounts of data, Price says, but it is difficult to use because it is “dirty” and untrusted. Thus, companies present a target for data theft, but without getting full benefit of that data. If individuals provide their own verifiable profile, which they have kept up to date and accurate, to the travel provider, that service provider can guide them through the sales funnel without the cost and associated challenges of storing the customer’s data.
Smith noted that the verifiability that the data is genuine, that it applies to the person presenting it, that it has not been tampered with or revoked, means that credentials for lounge access, passport checks, baggage drops and claims and health status, in one set of examples, can be shared directly by the consumer, empowered by the capabilities of contemporary mobile devices.
Work continues on empowering those without smartphones, Smith notes.
Use cases for SSI in travel that the DIF Special Interest Group has worked on include soliciting offers to purchase a product or service, KYC processes, and dealing with travel disruptions, such as a passenger rescheduling a reservation while stuck on the tarmac.
TSA opens Clear reservation lane
Passengers chose from available time slots, and receive a QR code to present to go through TSA checks at that time.
A similar TSA reservation system not involving Clear was unveiled at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport earlier this year.
“Biometrics proliferation is definitely around the corner,” TSA Chief Innovation Officer Dan McCoy tells Travel Weekly. Biometrics and mobile devices will make carrying traditional IDs optional, McCoy says, as airports and officials work towards “screening at speed.”
He also believes that most carry-ons will not need to be screened soon, due to advances in artificial intelligence and international data sharing.
One of the changes TSA made during the pandemic, McCoy notes, is turning the credential authentication technology (CAT) devices supplied by Idemia towards travelers, allowing them to insert their own driver’s license instead of handing it to a TSA agent.
Vision-Box, Lufthansa tout progress
Vision-Box presented its biometrics for seamless travel and automated border control technologies as an example of Portugal’s technology sector at the ongoing Expo 2020 Dubai.
Pedro Pinto, the company’s head of Global Business Development spoke about its experience with biometrics projects in the Middle East, such as at Dubai International Airport.
Vision-Box is also one of the biometrics providers Lufthansa has been working with as it attempts to enable the use of the technology at different sizes of airports and different touchpoints within them, Product Manager for Regulatory Services & Biometrics Patrick Sgueglia tells Future Travel Experience.
Sgueglia was speaking to the publication ahead of FTE Global’s Biometrics and Digital Identity Summit, which will be held December 7 to 9 in Las Vegas.
“We’re one of the first airline groups in the world to start investing in biometrics and we haven’t looked back since,” Sgueglia says. The result, he says, have been improvements in both cost and revenue.
Lufthansa is also part of Star Alliance, which partnered with SITA and NEC on a touchless biometric platform earlier this year.
The airline is planning to expand its deployment of biometric touchpoints at its Frankfurt hub and at airports in other countries.
Bulgaria airports ready for EES with secunet biometrics deployment
Biometric border control systems have been implemented at Sofia, Varna and Burgas airports Bulgaria by secunet and its general contractor partner SSARM to comply with the EU’s Entry/Exit System (EES), according to a company announcement.
The EES is slated for a May 2022 deadline, but the global semiconductor shortage may force a further delay.
A total of 20 secunet easygates have been deployed to the three airports to capture the face and fingerprint biometrics of people entering the country and are now in use. Eight easykiosks for biometrics pre-enrollment by travelers from third countries and 66 secunet easytowers and fingerprint scanners have been deployed to stationary border control desks.
“The Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior has implemented a secure and efficient border control strategy at Sofia, Varna and Burgas airports with the turnkey solution from the secunet border gears product portfolio, which represents an important step towards EES compliance and thus into the future,” concludes Marco Breitenstein, head of Division Homeland Security at secunet.
Biometric boarding limitations
Contemporary automated flight boarding systems based on face biometrics struggle with disorganized lines or a lack of space between people, according to Thomas Landgrebe, R&D manager of Amadeus subsidiary ICM Airport Technics.
Writing in a LinkedIn post, Landgrebe argues that creating the appropriate spacing greatly increases the time the process takes, reducing its benefit. Problems can also occur when the next passenger in line is looking elsewhere, while the following one looks directly at the camera.
Amadeus has responded to this situation by developing customized biometric hardware and software that tracks the precise 3D position of passengers as they approach. This, he says, is reducing the need for precise spacing, eliminating the need for airline agents to organize queues, and even allowing passengers to approach gates more naturally.
Elenium partners on illness-screening solution
Elenium Automation has entered a strategic partnership with Micro-X to act as a key contractor in the design and testing of a self-screening security portal to help fulfil a contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Micro-X won a pair of contracts with DHS in September; one for a miniature x-ray baggage scanner, and the other for the self-screening security portal. The portal is housed in a booth, and consists of a voice-controlled multi-step screening process Elenium says takes one-twentieth of the total footprint of a conventional sequential lane. The plan is to integrate Elenium’s HealthGate technology with Micro-X’s system to detect potential symptoms of infection illnesses.