Biometrics have the potential to transform the entire airport experience. And according to SITA’s 2018 Air Transport IT Insights survey, airlines and airports are increasingly investing in biometric technology to deliver secure and easy travel for passengers.

Speaking at SITA’s Euro IT Air Transport Summit on Friday 27 September Sergio Colella, president of SITA Europe, said: “Biometric and ID management will help deliver a seamless passenger experience.” Referencing the +6.7% growth recorded in passenger traffic across Europe’s airports in the first half of this year, he added that if “we want to cope with this continued growth we need to leverage technology.”

Colella was joined by SITA’s CEO, Barbara Dalibard, who echoed her enthusiasm for the broad adoption of biometric technology to deliver a secure, paperless way to travel, saying “we have already seen great success where we have implemented this technology at airports around the world.”

SITA’s report noted that 92% of passengers are ready to use biometric technology for boarding and passport control and generally passengers are at their happiest where there’s seamless self-service and automation. Dalibard underpinned this saying there’s a high correlation (77%) between the level of self-service implemented and passenger stress levels.

To deliver this seamless experience however, collaboration is needed from all stakeholders – airports, airlines, governments and industry suppliers – when implementing these technologies to automate and eliminate some of the tedious airport processes. Reinforcing the sentiment that “collaboration is key”, SITA’s head of Air Travel Solutions, Sean Farrell, said: “We need a standardised way for the industry to exchange biometric data and we need a framework for secure data exchange.”

Currently the most common use of biometric systems is identity verification at self-service check-in kiosks. It’s already used in 41% of airports, while 74% plan to have deployed this technology by the end of 2021. Biometric self-boarding gates are also set to become commonplace over the next three years, with 59% of airports and 63% of airlines expecting to use them.

With the overall investment in technology by airports and airlines on the rise, there has also been significant interest in deploying Artificial Intelligence (AI). Some 79% of airports are currently using, or plan on using AI for predictive analysis to improve operational efficiency.

Blockchain technology is also being more widely applied across the aviation industry, with 36% of airports and 40% of airlines believing the main benefit it can provide is to streamline passenger processing. By providing a decentralised database it can reduce the need for multiple ID checks and minimise the need for intermediaries, therefore speeding up the whole process.

Changing the way we travel by using technology to improve efficiency and making the passenger journey as seamless and secure as possible is a common goal across the industry concluded Colella. But, collaboration is required to ensure standardised regulations are put in place and he noted in the midst of all this tech talk it’s important not to forget the people both behind the scenes and at the receiving end of these innovative solutions. “It’s not simply about the technology. It’s also about the business outcomes that the technology can bring and the people factor is equally important.”

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