Enabling Touchless Travel Through Airport Biometrics

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Airports and airlines are increasingly turning to biometrics technologies to facilitate more touchless and seamless passenger journeys. Not only are these technologies key to increasing safety in the skies and improving national security for global governments, they offer benefits to every stakeholder in the commercial aviation ecosystem, and positively impact the passenger experience.

Considering the power of biometrics to revolutionize airport workflows and passenger journeys, it’s no surprise that the technology was the topic of discussion for multiple panels and side sessions at the recent Aviation Festival Asia event.

One of those panels, “How can airports work to make travel touchless, seamless, and safer for all passengers by 2030?” featured multiple airport decision-makers and technology providers talking about how biometrics will reshape the way passengers move through airports and utilize airport services.

We recently had an opportunity to sit down with Steve Robinson, the Managing Director for Asia Pacific at Collins Aerospace, to talk about what goes into a successful airport biometrics program and why touchless travel is so important for airlines, airports, and passengers.

Connected Aviation Today (CAT): Why are airports embracing biometrics today? Who benefits from these technologies?

Steve Robinson: There are numerous benefits to embracing biometrics in airports – and those benefits extend to the passengers, the airlines, and the airports themselves.

For the passengers, there is no longer a need to carry around a paper ticket and identification. They don’t have to worry about the hassle of producing documentation every time they interact with a different airline agent or government official – whether that’s airport security or customs personnel.

The airports can see revenue increase from biometrics. Passengers spend less time in security lines and checkpoints. Boarding processes are accelerated. Passengers simply have more time and freedom to explore the airport and its many businesses. They can pay to enter a lounge. They can sit and have a nice meal. They can shop or have a drink. This all leads to revenue for the airport businesses.

Finally, the airlines see better, faster, and more efficient boarding processes. Plane turnaround times get better, and they see increased revenue and fewer delays as a result.

CAT: Has Collins Aerospace been working to implement biometric programs at any airports?

Steve Robinson: Yes. In fact, we’re currently in the process of implementing a biometric program for Haneda Airport. That is one of the two international airports that service the city of Tokyo, Japan.

“Passengers spend less time in security lines and checkpoints. Boarding processes are accelerated. Passengers simply have more time and freedom to explore the airport and its many businesses.” – Steve Robinson

CAT: Is there anything about Haneda Airport that has made this implementation more challenging?

Steve Robinson: More than a quarter – at least 28 percent – of Japan’s population is over the age of 65. Biometrics programs must be accessible and inclusive for all passengers to ensure wide adoption and usage. And this is especially important with an aging population that may be less experienced with the technology, or less comfortable with technology, in general.

To accomplish this, it is important to advocate for user-centered design principles and continuous feedback loops. This ensures that the technology solutions being designed, developed, and deployed in airports meet the diverse needs of travelers. There is no magic bullet or one solution that will automatically work for all users – you have to iterate and constantly evolve your solution with the feedback that you receive.

CAT: How far along is that implementation? How has that process progressed?

Steve Robinson: We’ve been taking a stepped approach to the biometric implementation at Haneda Airport.  This ensures that the biometrics technologies – including cameras and other devices – have a high capture rate and that the entire system is adopted and utilized successfully.

We began the rollout with international flights for All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL). As part of that implementation, we helped to educate their staff, which is an essential step. Getting the airline’s agents and personnel invested in and educated on the technology will ensure that they utilize biometrics systems and ensure high capture and success rates with the technology.

“When choosing a biometrics technology provider, airports need to look for a collaborative partner that can be technology agnostic and provide a single pane of glass where all of the data and systems across the entire passenger journey can be accessed and managed.” – Steve Robinson

Next, we helped get passengers educated and informed about the use of biometrics. This is also important, since adopting biometrics does change many security and boarding processes that people have grown accustomed to. We worked with ANA and JAL to get passengers onboard with biometrics by assisting them with the processes and educating them on how these processes are faster and more efficient with biometrics.

We then tested these processes with passengers of all ages and demographics. Lessons learned from those tests were then used to tweak the system and workflows. We are revisiting these deployments regularly to understand adoption progress and have metrics we use to assess success.

We’re now rolling out biometrics to multiple other airlines in earnest.

CAT: The biometric systems in an airport have to interact with many other systems and technologies – from the kiosks and other technologies at check-in and bag drop to the systems at the gate. How is Collins Aerospace integrating and interoperating with these disparate systems at Haneda Airport?

Steve Robinson: Airports have often embraced several disparate technologies and solutions from a wide ecosystem of providers to enhance the passenger journey. Each system needs to provide and receive data from the biometrics system. This is why it’s essential that the biometrics technology provider can manage these disparate parts and make the most out of the data.

“We’ve been taking a stepped approach to the biometric implementation at Haneda Airport. This ensures that the biometrics technologies – including cameras and other devices – have a high capture rate and that the entire system is adopted and utilized successfully.” – Steve Robinson

When choosing a biometrics technology provider, airports need to look for a collaborative partner that is technology agnostic and provides a single pane of glass through which all of the data and systems across the entire passenger journey can be accessed and managed.

For the biometrics program we’re implementing in Haneda Airport, we are working alongside ecosystem technology providers to ensure a seamless process. 

Having an agnostic approach to hardware is key to our strategy. It’s also enabling the reuse of the airport’s existing technologies where possible. This has helped to reduce costs and waste for the airport.

Collating the data from all these touchpoints is critical to designing and building a seamless passenger journey. By analyzing the data we receive across these systems, we can identify where improvements are needed in the process, or additional technology requirements exist. We can then make those changes and embrace those new systems to further improve the passenger experience.

For additional information on the implementation of biometrics at Haneda Airport, click HERE.

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