Airports Gain Post-Security Revenue by Using Biometrics to Speed Up the Security Bottleneck
With the holidays in full swing, you may be thinking about how you can make your air travel easier. Being a frequent traveler from Atlanta, I have Delta Diamond Medallion status. Despite also having TSA PreCheck, preparation for security has always been an effort. I mentally prepare myself for long lines and add buffer time so that I make it to my flight with time to spare – always a challenge in Atlanta traffic.
When I got the opportunity to test for CLEAR, a biometric-based system, which is currently available in more than 30 airports, it seemed like a good idea for me to be one of the many “guinea pigs” that were willing to try it.
The system took my iris scan and fingerprints the first time and associated it with my photograph – and voilà, every time I travel through Atlanta or other participating airports and use CLEAR, I breeze to the front of the security lines, even ahead of TSA PreCheck since the agents don’t need to hassle with checking my ID.
All of the technology is of course overseen, monitored, and approved by the TSA. Flying out of the world’s busiest airport, I shouldn’t take it for granted or get disappointed with airports that are not yet participating in the program.
The TSA and private industry are developing programs to provide expedited security screening for passengers who volunteer biometric and biographic information, so I expect these programs to expand.
Biometric scanning includes using one or more of the following to identify a person:
- Facial Recognition
- Fingerprint Recognition
- Iris/Retina Recognition
- Palm Recognition
- Voice Recognition
Some airlines, airports, and border agencies have used facial recognition as the base of their technology; others use iris and fingerprint recognition.
My personal experience is backed by SITA. The air transport tech company’s recent survey found that 57 percent of passengers would prefer a biometric check-in process.
When fully implemented, programs like CLEAR will change air travel for the better. These programs will make security simpler and faster. When the most important part of the process, identity verification, is automated, this will also mean fewer employees from the airlines and TSA deployed in security.
From the traveler perspective, it improves the customer experience exponentially. This is a very critical outcome that airlines and airports are grappling with today. With the advent of personalized digital experience, ‘’day of travel” experience has been key factor on how airlines are measured by their customers.
As a seasoned traveler, I would qualify “day of travel” experience to be largely dependent on the ease of checking in and getting through security, thus giving me the opportunity to relax in the Sky Club before I hop on my flight. It also means greater revenues for airport shops and restaurants, with a post-security captive audience that has time on hand to browse and buy.
However, with any growing technology application, there are challenges, with security vulnerabilities being the most critical. Most people will worry about the biometric database getting hacked. While the technology keeps improving, another challenge will be the ability of these machines and software to continuously process information as the volume goes up without breakdown and glitches. Imagine the chaos at an airport should that happen!
There is also the challenge of anomalies of false rejection and false acceptance. False rejection is an incorrect reject despite a real match. False acceptance is when a fraudulent actor gets a match despite being a false. Again, biometric agencies will need to bring down the number of any of these occurring significantly before gaining wider acceptability. The type of recognition that is used is going to matter a great bit. For example, facial recognition technology still has lower accuracy than fingerprint recognition.
As CLEAR has done with me, different modalities may need to be stacked with each other to get the highest level of accuracy. The ultimate choice is with the traveler of course – they will be allowed to choose whether they opt in on one of these automated biometric modalities or not. I do think this is going to transform the check-in and security process very significantly in the coming years.
As an organization, NIIT Technologies has been working on projects that require the use of biometrics for authentication. We see ourselves as an enabler of this change for our travel customers to provide a better “day of travel” experience to their customers.