Passwords now are only minimally effective and not enough for secure environments. They can be borrowed, guessed, or brute force disabled so a password is no replacement for identification security.
For many years, airlines have provided passenger information to “Immigration” before a flight departs. In this new process, we identify passengers’ passport and visa photos in the database and segment them off in a secure cloud environment. As passengers board the plane, instead of presenting their boarding pass and passport to the airline, they simply stand in front of a camera. The image taken gets compared to the gallery of passport photos we have previously segmented, and a match is confirmed within seconds with an accuracy rate of 99 percent. The information is then provided to the airline electronically, so there is no need to read the actual boarding pass. For passengers without photos or where there isn’t a match, we revert to using the physical passport and boarding pass.
This approach implements the congressional mandate in a way that’s not only easy to comply with, but that also improves the travel experience. Rather than layering on yet another process, we’re taking behaviors travelers are already familiar with and making the airport experience faster, easier, and more secure.
Very simply, Airline/immigration have visa or passport photos of foreign visitors and passport photos for citizens. The picture is the single consistent biometric. Immigration still have a responsibility to confirm passengers are the true passport holder. We also use the technology to confirm that they’ve departed the boarders.
Frequent travelers are all too familiar with the seemingly endless journey that’s typically required to get from the curb to the gate at most airports, punctuated by numerous stops along the way to show boarding pass and ID. It can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, but thanks to increasingly sophisticated biometric technology, that’s beginning to change.
At Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), for instance, airlines Lufthansa and British Airways are using biometric self-boarding gates to enable international departures without requiring passengers to show passports or boarding passes. Instead, mounted cameras take passengers’ pictures as they approach the gate. Those images are sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) database for real-time matching within seconds. During initial trials, Lufthansa was able to board about 350 passengers onto an A380 aircraft in roughly 20 minutes—a dramatic improvement over what it would have taken traditionally. It all stems from a congressional mandate dating back to 2004 that called for a biometric entry and exit system for international visitors. In 2013 responsibility for fulfilling that mandate was given to CBP, where it’s been spearheaded by John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Field Operations. In addition to enabling the self-boarding gates at LAX, CBP is now running biometric trials at several U.S. airports and working with Delta, JetBlue, British Airways, and Lufthansa to incorporate facial recognition technology into their boarding processes. Meanwhile, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority recently announced it is working with CBP as the first airport to expand facial recognition capabilities to all arriving and departing international travelers. Recently, Wagner shared his perspectives on this new technology and its potential to shape the future of travel.
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