The introduction of a biometric exit system

The company which provides biometric solutions to airports predicted that using biometrics to check passengers’ identity would power the era of faster and more secure self-service processes, with innovative ID management programs becoming “more commonplace worldwide as 63% of airports and 43% of airlines plan to invest in biometric ID management solutions in the next three years.”

Impact of the EIMS

Vision-Box, a provider of electronic identity management solutions, which has more than 80 international airports using its technology, proves the point. Jean-François Lennon, VP for Marketing & Sales at Vision-Box, explains why their technology works. “It is an enabler towards a document less and contactless passenger participation—it provides a better experience, passengers feel better treated, they have more time to enjoy the airport’s facilities and boarding is quick.”

Closer home, Malaysia-headquartered airline AirAsia launched its Fast Airport Clearance Experience System (Faces) in February this year, at the Senai International Airport. The airline offers its passengers a seamless travel experience from check-in to boarding using biometric facial recognition technology. The process is a two-fold one where a passenger enrols for the service and gets verified through the Passenger Reconciliation System (PRS), after which they use their facial scans to board the flight.

Faces are fully owned and operated by AirAsia, making it unique in the airport biometric technology ecosystem where most airlines partner with airline technology companies to build systems for them.

In India, while there has been no official announcement on using biometric technologies at airports, the industry has shown interest in incorporating biometrics into air travel and linking it to India’s digital ID system, Aadhaar.

Paperless E-Boarding Facility

In August 2015, Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) started offering India’s first paperless e-boarding facility. Though different from global biometric airport technologies, the airport sought to use India’s biometric ID system, Aadhaar, as part of the process. “With the implementation of e-boarding at RGIA, now a domestic passenger flying from the airport will need only a mobile e-boarding card and his Aadhaar Card Number to gain entry into the airport,” noted a press release by RGIA.

In November 2016, Bengaluru International Airport was reported to be testing the feasibility for biometric screening. Earlier this year, in India, The Economic Times reported that the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had chosen three airports to implement biometric passenger systems.

Earlier this month, on July 3, Vision-Box, a leading global technology company that builds integrated electronic Identity management platforms, opened shop in New Delhi. Vision-Box’s VP for Marketing & Sales, Jean-François Lennon, told The Ken about the opportunity he sees in India. “India is a gigantic market given the size of its population and its demographics—which are very encouraging v/s China. The domestic aviation market is gigantic and has increased consistently over five-six years. This calls for infrastructure and we are very excited about the opportunities India presents.”

[Bye bye paper]

In most biometric programs that are currently active or under trials, a passenger can choose if they want to participate. If not, the biometric procedure is non-binding. However, even as some experts and data activists pushback, industry surveys show passengers adopting and embracing new biometric and digital technologies with much enthusiasm.

The ‘Passenger IT Trends Survey 2017’ by SITA, a leading air transport, and communication service provider, found that 57% of respondents would surely use biometrics instead of a passport or boarding pass. “The fact that not only are these passengers happy to use biometric technology but, as SITA’s research shows, they have higher rates of satisfaction when they do so, is very encouraging.

High rates of passenger satisfaction will encourage both airports and airlines to move to secure and seamless passenger processing,” Sean Farrell, Director, Strategy and Innovation, SITA, told The Ken.

Farrell said that SITA foresees a world where passengers can walk into the airport, approach an automated bag-drop position that will identify them by their face, and progress through security and border checks without “breaking their stride”.