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More airport biometric checks from NEC, Clear, Idemia I&S

TSA planning CAT-2 deployments to over 400 airports
More airport biometric checks from NEC, Clear, Idemia I&S

While the world’s travel destinations bounce back from the post-pandemic tourism slowdown, airports across the world are investing in new biometric tools to keep track of passengers.

Japanese giant NEC has announced it will provide new kiosks for immigration and customs inspections, equipped with the NeoFace technology that is a part of the company’s Bio-IDiom portfolio of biometric authentication products. The kiosks use facial recognition and fingerprint scanning for authentication.

The kiosks will start piloting on January 31, 2024 at Haneda Airport, one of two international airports serving Tokyo. Haneda serves around 138,000 passengers a day – still a lower volume  than pre-Covid. Those figures, however, are expected to rise, as the Japanese government plans to boost tourism to the country, and welcome 60 million overseas visitors by 2030.

NEC is also building its presence overseas, with NEC America obtaining new government certificates in Texas this month.

US airports expanding biometrics use

New biometric access equipment is also coming to airports across the United States.

Clear is opening more biometric kiosks in airports, adding checkpoints in Pittsburgh, Rhode Island T.F. Green, Buffalo Niagara, Tulsa and Bradley International. Clear previously added locations in Raleigh/Durham and Kansas City, according to the Your Mileage May Vary travel blog.

Clear allows travelers to skip security queues and pass through security more quickly by using face, iris and fingerprint biometrics to verify their identity. An unseen challenge for Clear, says the blog, is that as more people have enrolled in the program, lines for Clear-equipped gates have gotten longer.

Denver International Airport is also showcasing Clear tech at its West Security Checkpoint, equipped with screening technologies such as facial recognition. The Checkpoint will serve TSA PreCheck and Clear passengers, DEN Reserve passengers and holders of the Colorado Digital ID, among other travelers.

The West Security Checkpoint is due to be opened on February 6, while a similar checkpoint on the east side of the airport will open in late 2025, according to CBS News. Denver started rolling out the technology elsewhere in the airport last year.

Finally, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is making big moves, expanding its facial recognition scanners to more than 400 airports.

The agency is at the beginning stages of adding facial recognition to the Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) devices that began deployment in 2022. The current CAT-2 scanners from Idemia I&S can take real-time photos of travelers and perform one-to-one verification against their photo IDs, industry publication NextGov reports.

“The CAT-2 units are currently deployed at nearly 30 airports nationwide, and will expand to more than 400 federalized airports over the coming years,” says a TSA official.

Facial recognition screening is optional and the CAT systems do not record any information; the passengers’ photos are deleted from the scanner. However, the TSA can change the system to log the data when it wants to test system performance, according to Arun Vemury, senior engineering advisor for identity technologies at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), which performs the testing.

But, he says, “we don’t get the full set of data,” and that even with the limited testing data that DHS S&T collects, “we have agreements in place to kind of define what data can be shared and how it’s going to be obfuscated or omitted.”

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