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Travel industry adoption of facial recognition grows

Travel industry adoption of facial recognition grows
 

Travelers are likely to be among the first to experience the mass worldwide commercial deployment of facial recognition, with a steady stream of new adoptions at airports, cruise lines and amusement parks, despite lingering concerns around privacy.

An article in the New York Times highlights facial recognition systems in use at Miami Airport, on Carnival cruise ships and at the theme parks on Dubai’s Yas Island. Conde Nast Traveler writes that “biometric technology is replacing the need for passports at the world’s most modern airports,” pointing to Singapore’s Changi airport, which will be the first international hub to ditch passports when it implements automated biometric checks at immigration, bag drop and other touchpoints next year. The same article cites a paper from the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, which claims that by 2030 many airports will have walk-through, contactless immigration based on Changi’s model.

Evidence supports that claim. Pax International reports that Munich airport recently implemented biometric e-gates that use facial recognition screening for secure ID control in its Terminal 2. According to Vietnam Plus, in November, Vietnam will implement a biometric authentication system across airports nationwide. Airline Economics reports that Lufthansa will soon offer biometric access to its lounge at Berlin airport. And in the U.S., Kansas City International Airport is debuting Global Entry facial recognition for returning international passengers, according to a report by KMBC News.

A November 2022 survey from IATA, an aviation trade organization, found that “75 percent of passengers want to use biometric data instead of passports and boarding passes.” And the UN-run International Civil Aviation Organization is working on a universal digital identity that can be used with airport facial scans globally.

Nor is the uptake limited to airports. In Dubai, where airports are already planning contactless terminals, the Roads and Transport Authority is also bringing biometrics to its metro system next year, via AI-powered facial recognition cameras that can clear a passenger in five seconds against a registered photo, as reported in Zawya. Some vacation resorts now offer a facial recognition-based photo stream option, which sends anyone who opts in any photos of them taken by roaming resort photographers. Disney World tried facial recognition in 2021 and decided against keeping it, but Universal’s Orlando theme parks will soon offer biometric entry.

So, while experts continue to raise questions about the risks associated with facial recognition and other biometric systems – for instance, stolen biometric data cannot be canceled or changed like a physical document – there is little doubt that they are on the way to becoming the norm, particularly for those on the road.

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