15 July 2022

Global Markets

Airport technology: Runway to seamless travel

Pedro Pinto, Head, Global Business Development, Vision-Box, a Portugal-based multinational technology company that partnered with the Bengaluru airport recently, discusses the hassle-free experience provided by the biometric contactless technology to air travellers

Even as airports the world over happily witness travellers, further measures will only enhance the much-needed passenger confidence and commitment. Integrated efforts need to be made dedicated to improve the quality, convenience, efficiency and security in travel, border control and all smart facilities. All these can be achieved through superior design, development and implementation of integrated, user-centric, digital identity management solutions and services built upon trusted biometric tokens, especially in the Indian context.

Indian airports & adoption of technology since pandemic

Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, the industry was already beginning to shift towards innovative and efficient methods of passenger management and border control. COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend, with the upcoming years being a benchmark for change. The central premise with Covid-19 has been to reduce contact between people and remove bottlenecks in airports.

Technology has proved that this can be done efficiently. Global studies conducted across the industry have clearly outlined a visible and imminent shift toward automation and biometrics. A Vision-Box survey reflected these sentiments, capturing responses from companies and agencies in the travel and tourism industry across America (35%), Europe (32%), and Asia (24%). When asked what would increase passenger trust to enable the return to normal travel activities, 35% of the respondents saw touchless/contactless identification and clearance technology as a solution, while 63% of organisations in the aviation, airline sector and government agencies said they seek to implement biometric technologies at airports for contactless travel.

What this suggests is that we are now seeing such technology being implemented not because it is ‘futuristic,’ but because it is now a necessity, and this will only see the standards become the norm going forward.

A success story

In India, for instance, we partnered with Bangalore International Airport for the implementation of the first Digi Yatra Biometric Boarding System solution. This project enables touchless and paperless travel journeys to passengers flying from Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru. A fully biometric-based self-boarding solution, we are looking at a seamless flow from registration to boarding. The project, at the completion, will have 365 biometric touchpoints (Registration Kiosks, Entry Gates, Self Service Check in, Self Service Bag Drop, Security Checkpoint, and Boarding).

We continue to work with major airports and airlines in India to expand on the Digi Yatra program, to implement biometric technology to enable seamless travel. Our focus is completely on user privacy by design, and anyone who wants to benefit from the seamless travel technology can opt-in themselves. The basic premise of implementing biometric contactless technologies is to empower passengers to navigate the airport experience seamlessly without any hassles – be it queuing or presenting multiple paperwork throughout.

The advantage that biometric contactless solutions bring is that they finally lead all the stakeholders - from the airline to the airport and border control agencies, to join and create a common process of passenger experience, which will address the challenges of long queues, traveler uncertainties, and provide key information to all stakeholders, being airlines, airports, and border control authorities.

For the first time, everyone can be coordinated, to collaborate and process information and passengers faster, in a seamless and efficient manner.

We can eliminate the need for multiple documentation and checkpoints and reduce bottlenecks at critical areas such as check-in, immigration, and boarding. We can even enable a passenger to check in at home through their phone camera, to complete all the identification and verification processes, so that when they enter the airport, the biometric gates automatically recognise and process them. These technologies will radically transform the airport and travel experience.

This was the first project of its kind in Asia, when we started the rollout and become the benchmark to be followed. Passengers can simply enroll their ID and biometric data, combined with their flight details, before entering the Terminal. As they travel through the airport, passengers can put their travel documents away, as they will be authenticated and verified at every touchpoint by state-of-the-art biometric technology.

This process offers the highest degree of safety and security while ensuring stringent standards of privacy. The biometric data is used only for authentication and verification of passengers to assist them in the airport journey. In addition, the passenger data is deleted within a few hours of flight completion and the program is optional, meaning that the passengers will choose voluntarily if they want avail this service.

India as a potential aviation hub and the inherent challenges

The key factor for a region to become an aviation hub is the ease of passenger processing, especially for transit passengers. Airports with robust passenger processing technologies stand to be preferred destinations for both passengers and airlines. As technology is scaled up to growing traffic, they automatically transition into hubs. India, which already has fantastic infrastructure, can become a world-leading aviation hub with investments in biometric technologies.

The current challenge that the industry faces is two-fold – re-instilling international passenger confidence to travel, while simultaneously making the industry nimble to navigate changing regulations. I believe this year will be a defining moment here, as it will likely be the year, we get back up to pre-pandemic levels.

Over the next couple of years, we expect airports and airlines to scale up their networks and infrastructure to offer more innovation. While implementing new technologies involves initial investments, they would pay off in the long run as passengers would certainly prefer airports that implement safety standards over those which do not.

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