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Three steps forward for airport biometrics, one step back

Three steps forward for airport biometrics, one step back

A single-token system for pre-flight checks appears to be a success at Hong Kong International Airport’s departure terminal. Similar biometric ID projects for air travelers continue globally, but all are not successful.

The Chinese government wants to take the international focus off Hong Kong’s pro- and anti-democracy tension, and the flight token program is one way to alter the former British Colony’s image.

Elsewhere, Idemia is celebrating its 15 millionth processed PreCheck enrollment for the United States government. And in Columbia, El Dorado airport in Bogotá is reporting smooth sailing as officials pilot facial recognition systems.

But controversy is attached to the Biometric Movement Control System at Tambo International Airport in South Africa. An opposition politician claims the ruling party has botched the system.

Hong Kong has only recently completed the biometric token system, according to trade publication Simple Flying.

Travelers entering Hong Kong International are confronted with a kiosk at which they scan their flight documents.

From that point on, travelers get their faces scanned without documents. Self-service luggage stations scan faces and accept bags. Security gates scan faces and then let travelers through. There does not seem to be a check for contraband.

Hong Kong International’s biometric security systems last year placed first in the Amadeus & ACI World Technology Innovation Awards for best innovation in passenger processes.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. state of Virginia, Idemia executives say their 15 millionth biometric ID processing is in the book. The company has been a contractor for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program since 2013. PreCheck subscribers avoid the long lines and tedious search through belongings at security gates.

To the south, Columbia‘s face biometric pilot project, begun in July, is running with few hitches, according to local trade publication Aviacionline. Idemia again is involved in this project.

Travelers can validate themselves and their travel plans without physical documents.

Airlines Avianca and Viva are part of the program. There are 46 self-checkin stations, 19 automated bag drops, 28 VeryPax machines that clear people to enter waiting rooms. There are more face biometrics in pre-security lanes as well.

It is not all good new, though. In South Africa, the shadow tourism minister, Manny de Freitas, says tourists are being delayed by biometric verification lanes by “an average of at least 3 hours” at Tambo International.

In fact, de Freitas insinuates that the biometric system has not been properly tested, which is contributing to delays.

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