Facial Recognition at the Airport: What should we expect?

Passenger facial recognition: the next step for an improved airport experience.

Can you imagine moving through an airport with no need to use paper documents using your face as your only ID?

Facial recognition is the next frontier for airports to make the travel experience easier and faster for passengers.

Many airports and airlines worldwide are beginning to explore the use of facial recognition technology to improve the quality of the services offered to their customers. Imagine arriving at the airport, taking a picture of yourself, scanning your passport at the check-in desk and you’re set to fly ! You would be ready to move freely through different areas of the airport, reducing waiting times and the queues at security controls and at boarding gates.

If this was seen as utopia only a decade ago, now it is becoming a reality.

Are passengers ready to use facial recognition in airports?

Despite the introduction of facial recognition being a huge breakthrough for  airport management, there may still be limits in its usage. Many passengers, especially those that are not frequent flyers, may not feel comfortable in using these technologies, preferring traditional ways of document checking.

The use of facial recognition raises issues related to privacy and accuracy;

What happens to the supplied information?

Is it kept by airports?

Are the pictures really accurate?

These are some of the questions that lead many passengers to have doubts in respect of facial recognition. There is much debate on this area. Airports and airlines respond to concerns by asserting that they don’t keep any data for more than 24 hours. Moreover, they affirm that by taking a photo of the passenger, they don’t gather any additional information that has not been provided through the passport check. Those in favour of facial recognition assert that this new technology is a crucial step for airports to improve their performance and using the technology in such a complex structure like an airport is becoming  indispensable.

The arguments lead us to think that not all passengers may actually be ready to use facial recognition during their travel experience. Especially people that are not familiar with technology may find it concerning. Nevertheless, as it happened with all the new technologies that have been introduced over the years, it is expected that facial recognition will become a “must” in every airport and that all passengers will begin to accept this solution to enjoy a faster and easier travel experience.

The impacts of facial recognition are bigger than you may expect

Despite the privacy issues that have been underlined, facial recognition has a significant positive backstory to improve airports’ operational management.

Not only faster check-in, security controls and boarding operations, but also more accurate security and controls are reasons supporting the introduction of biometrics in airports.

Many airports, especially in the US, have been using facial recognition for nearly 20 years as a security measure following the terrorist attacks of 2001. In particular, biometrics were introduced as a mandatory measure to check the entry and exit flows of people from airports, but only recently it has been adopted as a means to facilitate boarding operations.

Europe is moving towards smarter use of passengers’ information to improve the travel experience. In fact, airports like Heathrow and Schiphol have already implemented biometric solutions.

Facial recognition is a huge investment in terms of technology but airports are ready to have a new face. The hard part of this innovation process Is convincing people that their information will remain private and to get them to understand the real advantages they may gain in terms of stress reduction and time saving.

What can The Voyage Team do for facial recognition?

Thanks many years of experience in the fields of video and digital asset management, machine learning and artificial intelligence, we can design different software solutions that simplify the interaction between airports and passengers using facial recognition and biometrics, using, for instance, mobile technologies.