1 Mar 2016

Biometrics Blends Airport Security with Safety and Comfort

The biometrics market is not only healthy but growing, fueled by the need for high-level security in critical sites that can be targets for significant threats. ABI Research identified that the growth of biometric technologies is in response to global security threats such as terrorist attacks, airport security initiatives and attempts to lower crime rates, producing a global need for safety, security and privacy. It’s quite obvious that the world has become a more technological savvy place with the increased use of biometrics — in just the past couple of years, as an example, we’ve seen smartphone manufacturers embrace fingerprint scanning as a way of controlling access to devices. The more familiar people become with biometrics, the more it will be used, opening the door even wider for growth in the biometric access control market.

Airports, in particular, are increasingly embracing this biometric trend. Just recently, John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport installed facial recognition software that automatically scans a traveler’s face and compares it to the photo that is stored in an electronic chip on an individual’s passport. This helps customs officers identify legitimate travelers while protecting against fraud and identity theft with little, and in some cases, no delay of accessing the interior terminal. All images taken by the software are deleted, unless officials need it for further law enforcement actions, placing an emphasis on individual privacy and protection.

Other airports are following suit, including Washington Dulles International Airport's use of facial scanning to enhance security protocols, while some are taking the use of biometrics in a completely different direction. Biometrics are also being used to control the movement of airline and airport employees along with other contractors, all of whom wear identification badges, from unsecured to secured areas of a terminal. The stealing of identification badges happens more frequently than the general public is probably aware of; however, implementing fingerprint or iris scanning provides another layer of security for in-use badges.

The aviation vertical is also using these technologies to blend security with passenger comfort. Iris recognition is being used to automate frequent-flier lounge entry, with the data being transferred to the passenger’s airline to enhance services such as in-flight entertainment personalization. Assimilating this data with a photo of the individual also assists airline employees with security, being able to accurately identify passengers.

Of course, security comes before comfort, so ensuring that all identities are consistent throughout airport terminal movement — check-in, border crossing, passenger security check points, aircraft boarding, employee badges — is the key to ensuring overall facility security. The goal is to ensure that the same person who is boarding an aircraft or entering unsecure areas is the same who has undergone earlier biometric security processes throughout the terminal.