As air travel continues to increase on a global scale, airports from all over the world are seeking innovation in self-service passenger processing solutions to improve passenger experience and streamline airport operations through identity management and biometrics.
Although it is widely recognised that complete automation, and a paperless passenger processing experience from airport arrival to take-off is still some years away, Rockwell Collins is involved in testing and research of biometrics innovation to consolidate its already successful self-service airport solutions with that goal firmly in mind.
Tony Chapman, director of strategic programs for Rockwell Collins Global Airports talks to us about Biometrics and Identity Management in the next generation of Rockwell Collins' Self-Service innovations.
Facial recognition and biometrics data challenges in the airport environment
The latest innovation in passports typically includes Common Use Identity Management specific to travellers, such as measured distances between facial features, for example. This data can be captured and verified by cameras located at strategic points within the airport, and linked to airport computer systems that hold travel documentation.
Challenges arise around the world in this process of identity management, largely due to a lack of standardization for required information. Tony Chapman, notes that ‘Everyone is looking for something more unique than facial features and adds that while the system is good, ‘you have to look up at the camera’.
There are also concerns and challenges surrounding privacy laws regarding biometrics data-sharing, which differ from country to country.
The CLEAR approach to identity management
CLEAR, currently operational in 14 airports in the U.S. allows passengers to use dedicated security lanes to expedite passenger processing using a biometric boarding pass. Subject to advance, pre-approval, CLEAR is privately-run and works to a similar process as that operated by the TSA.
Recent testing with Alaska Airlines, using fingerprint comparison with boarding records, proved successful, and can be used in the future to replace the paper boarding pass, or the electronic boarding passes typically stored on mobile phones.
How Rockwell Collins see the future of biometrics to improve passenger experience
Rockwell Collins’ vision for the future of passenger processing takes a holistic view of the planned airport experience, from the moment of arrival after following a booking process. From this point, passenger experience will take on a completely new focus, with a self-service progression throughout the airport to the point of boarding.
The passenger is met with a facial recognition camera at a self-service bag drop kiosk, where the passport is scanned. A comparison is made of the traveller’s features with the biometrics data stored in the document and the passenger travel documentation, such as ticket and boarding pass stored within the airline DCS. This data is automatically passed to the relevant government department or agency for security screening.
Once baggage is handled using the self-service features of the kiosk, including electronic tagging and security scanning, the passenger heads to security, where he is met with another facial recognition camera to verify the biometrics data. This process of facial recognition continues at the gate, and upon arrival at the destination airport.
According to Chapman, this final part of the process will prove to be the most challenging, requiring the biometrics agreements and standards to be in place across the world.
Rockwell Collins has been approaching research and development of its vision for more than 18 months, with the core idea being in place for almost a decade, following issues in the U.K. with travellers from some countries in Africa arriving as economic immigrants at the border, having destroyed travel documentation after leaving their native country. Although the trials involved manual processing, Chapman says it ‘started our thinking on how to automate this whole process’.
Other visions for automation in the marketplace include the use of mobile phones and devices containing pre-programmed biometrics data, yet this vision is open to abuse if not carefully policed within the airport environment.
There is little doubt that at some point in the future, innovation will deliver complete automation to encompass every step of the passenger experience within a framework of self-service systems using biometrics identity management. Rockwell Collins continues to improve passenger experience with self-service airport systems, such as Common Use Identity Management, airport self-service check-in and bag drop kiosks and baggage systems, used in airports around the world.