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US government leans into airport biometrics, providers envision automation options

US government leans into airport biometrics, providers envision automation options

An executive order signed this week by U.S. President Joe Biden could boost funding for the Transportation Security Administration’s biometric programs, as the government attempts to save Americans time and address the highest-friction interactions they have with the public sector, Roll Call reports.

Senior Advisor to the President Neera Tanden specifically invoked biometrics among tools to help speed up airport processes and reduce the amount of time people spend waiting in lines. Another key component of the executive order is communicating to the public the services the government offers, Tanden said.

Other areas of friction addressed by the order include passport renewals and online applications, which could mean more support for federal digital ID and online authentication programs.

The Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, has awarded over $2.5 million to Georgia-based Vanderlande Industries to develop a passenger self-screening concept and prototype to streamline TSA PreCheck, which based on the executive order, may be in line for further promotion and development.

The grant was issued under the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T’s) Screening at Speed Program, and will support Vanderlande in the development of automated checkpoint based on its PAX Advanced MX2 Automated Screening Lane (ASL) and off-the-shelf passenger screening systems. The result will be four integrated screening stations for a single lane, with each combining X-ray screening of bags and personal affects with on-person screening for a more efficient overall process.

“Developing self-screening stations at checkpoints, through the Passenger Self-Screening Project, will allow passengers to complete screening activities by themselves, similar to self-checkout at grocery stores,” explains Kathryn Coulter Mitchell, the senior official performing the duties of the under secretary for Science and Technology.

TSA Identity Management Capability Manager Jason Lim discussed government efforts to incorporate more credentials, such as mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs), in a recent interview with PYMNTS.

Lim sees the pandemic as fundamentally changing TSA’s mission, with increased automation and digital ID screening necessary measures for protecting public health and safety.

In addition to mDLs, TSA’s efforts include the rollout of its new biometric credential authentication technology, known as CAT-2 or CAT-C scanners, supplied by Idemia. Pairing biometrics with approved digital IDs can significantly improve security while rendering processes touchless, Lim says.

Extending and securing the digital border

The future of border processes involves not just biometrics and other advanced technology deployed at airports and other border crossings, Paravision Europe Director Carl Gohringer writes, but also a more flexible understanding of border interactions that includes passengers submitting data ahead of time from the comfort of their own homes.

In an article reprinted to its website, Gohringer argues that advances in facial recognition accuracy and the wide availability of NFC-enabled smartphones enable ID documents and the personal information they hold to be verified, and a reference image for curb-to-gate biometric single-token processes provided.

The result, according to Gohringer, will be lower friction, lower costs, and enhanced security, in a system with more automated checks and real-time processing.

Increasing digitization of airline systems is also increasing the cybersecurity attack surface, an analysis from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) points out.

IATA urges airlines to consider the cybersecurity of their passenger services, operations, and aircraft control, noting that fraud in ticket sales cost them close to a billion dollars a year. Fake refund claims and passenger incentive program exploits have also increased.

The adoption of biometrics can help mitigate these risks, but also introduces additional data security and privacy responsibilities. IATA urges data minimization and the implementation of risk-based systems.

Amadeus, Amazon, Clear deployments for travelers

Hawaiian Airlines has selected Amadeus’ Airline Platform to provide digital services to its passengers and operational technology to its staff. The airline will offer reservation booking, payments, and real-time data through the Amadeus Altéa PSS software suite.

Amadeus’ Traveler ID for Safe Travel will also be implemented by Hawaiian for convenient verification of health status documentation.

Elsewhere in the travel industry, airport retailer Hudson has adopted Amazon One palm biometrics to provide a ‘Just Walk Out’ experience at Dallas Love Field Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport.

The deployment of Amazon’s retail biometrics in airports allows previously enrolled travelers to use biometrics to charge purchases to a card associated with their account at Hudson Nonstop stores.

Clear has partnered with Uber to unveil a ‘Home to Gate’ feature for its digital identity app.

The feature provides users of Clear’s biometric app with detailed information on when to leave for their flight, analyzing traffic data, airport walking distance and waiting times at airport checkpoints.

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