The days of being late for a flight because of long, slow security lines may soon be history. Faster, more secure airport checkpoints are now possible due to advances in technology and a strong commitment from the US government. The FAA reauthorization bill passed by Congress in July states this commitment to building “Checkpoints of the Future,” which seek to redefine the security processes we use in airports today. It will accomplish this by moving citizens safely and quickly through security by incorporating biometrics, secure tokens and other security enhancing technologies for identity verification.
For the air transport industry this focus presents an opportunity to balance efficiency with effectiveness by dramatically improving the way passengers’ identities are validated. Being able to quickly confirm that that the people presenting themselves for travel are who they say they are, and that they are authorized to travel, has benefits both for the passenger and governments seeking to secure their borders.
Checkpoint of the Future
Here in the US the vision is already being realized. The FAA reauthorization bill provides the framework to redefine how we use technologies to move people safely and securely through airports. Similar initiatives using biometric technology to process passengers faster and more securely are already available for international travelers arriving in the US, many of whom are spending up to 40 percent less time in line because of the implementation of Automated Passport Control kiosks. These efficiencies are the result of the government agencies working together with airports, airlines and global industry IT providers, such as SITA, to deliver the best solution for all.
SITA continues to move air travel into the digital age and is exploring single-token travel as part of its ongoing research. Numerous products using single biometric tokens are being trialed worldwide, including SITA Smart Path, which has been trialed at a major airport hub in the Middle East with further proofs-of-concept planned for other leading international airports.
A key advantage of the new technology is its ability to integrate with existing airport infrastructure – including industry standard common-use self-service equipment, such as check-in kiosks, bag drop units, gates for secure access, boarding and automated border and passport control. This makes rapid deployment easy and cost-effective. Smart Path also integrates with government systems and databases, allowing integrated and comprehensive immigration and border checks.
A single travel token that works at all airports and across all borders is the ultimate goal. SITA imagines passengers creating a verifiable, tamper-proof ‘token’ that contains biometric and other personal data on their mobile phone so that any authority can simply scan your face and scan your device to verify you are an authorized traveler, no matter where in the world you go.
This will allow travelers to pass through borders with a single, digitally verified identity. It will make moving through airports less onerous while dramatically improving security. This is the industry’s chance to completely change the way we travel, and improve worldwide border security.
Progress towards a common vision
In the space of just a few months, the air transport industry and US government have made remarkable progress towards a common vision for identity management of the future. SITA and the air transport industry are now focusing on the airport of the future, where the majority of travelers are willing to participate in registered traveler programs and use biometrics at the airport. This will simplify the screening process and help the government fulfill its security obligations in an effort to keep our skies safer.
This aligned strategy, which includes private and public collaboration, promises to fast track the introduction of a truly speedy and seamless passage through security and immigration at airports in the US. As we move deeper into the digital age, the more our personal lives and the transactions we undertake will be managed and verified digitally, either on our mobile devices or online. Air travel is no exception.
Randy Pizzi is North American Preside of SITA.