The digital transformation of travel

Increased security needs and the COVID-19 pandemic have transformed how humans get from point A to point B. This is especially true in regards to air travel, an industry in which the federal government is increasingly implementing digital identity solutions designed to elevate traveler experiences.

From curb to gate, digital touchpoints are expanding and creating a more secure and contactless experience. Digital identity solutions can streamline the travel experience by enabling passengers to use a single digital identity across multiple touchpoints, including check-in, security, boarding and immigration.

Operational struggles experienced by airlines and airports have been widely reported, harming the travel experience through significant delays and misplaced baggage. But luckily for travelers, change is on the horizon. Digital identity tools are increasingly reducing the need for multiple document checks and physical interactions, leading to faster and more convenient travel.

And while these biometric applications include much-discussed facial recognition systems, other identity verification solutions are contributing to an evolution in aviation.

For example, iris scanning takes the patterns of an individual’s iris to establish their identity by comparing it to established records. Fingerprint biometrics are used to verify identities at international entry and exit checkpoints, and even routine affairs like collecting your bag could one day be biometric driven.

Agencies like Customs and Border Patrol and the Transportation Security Administration have taken notice of the clear advantages offered by digital IDs, particularly for international travel, but — in the case of TSA — increasingly for domestic trips as well. In part driven by a post-9/11 mandate to enhance airport security, solutions like the Traveler Verification Service (TVS) offer a more seamless and secure airport solution.

A U.S. immigration solution used to verify identities at border settings like airports, TVS provides a secure solution for all technology providers to manage the identity verification process. This is done by capturing an international traveler’s face and matching it against a temporary, automated cloud service with a day-of travel biometric passenger manifest. The manifest is created through coordination of CBP and airlines’ systems and simultaneously validates both the passport and boarding pass in about .03 seconds.

This automation allows the gate agent to improve customer experiences through better engagement while providing the passenger with a more timely and efficient process.

Other passenger-initiated digital identity technologies place the user firmly in control, including programs which consumers can opt into to use their digital identity for the entire curb-to-gate journey. Expanding such applications will require more consistency in digital government services from country to country, and governments fully embracing market solutions.

While increasingly upgrading the passenger experience, the multiplying of biometric applications highlights the need for such technology to operate under national and international standards respecting consumer privacy and prioritizing accuracy. In the U.S., this means ensuring that systems meet high bars for accuracy and compliance standards set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, amongst others.

Federal decision-makers should look carefully at the various systems on the market to ensure a thorough understanding of data privacy, interoperability and tech provider stability. Due diligence in assessing solutions is critical, and decision makers must be certain that a provider will be capable of delivering secure solutions with transparent data processing and privacy by design.

While currently more present for international travelers, secure digital identities can be a gamechanger for reducing bottlenecks for domestic travel. Digital identity capabilities like face recognition are presenting the federal government with an opportunity to significantly upgrade travel experiences from coast to coast. Domestic policy, however, has different challenges when compared with international policy, which still requires finalization.

For example, by replacing manual verification experiences, trials have shown a 60% reduction in processing times. Furthermore, currently available digital identity technologies can fully board a 130-passenger plane in 11 minutes, compared to the average time currently of 40 minutes.

With research from Acuity Market Intelligence and Find Biometrics showing more than 4 billion people globally planning to fly in 2023, the expansion of biometrics is key to facilitating passenger experiences that reduce lines, paperwork and headaches.

And better yet, growth is expected to multiply.

By 2027, the global market for aviation biometric digital ID is expected to grow to nearly $13 billion from its current $1.4 billion, according to research from Acuity Market Intelligence and Find Biometrics. This staggering sum includes a projected 65% compounded annual growth rate in North America, much of which will include government contracts.

Digital identity technology has arrived in full force, and government agencies and the private sector are utilizing it to a great degree. In addition to the airport technologies mentioned, governments are rapidly pursuing secure document innovations with digital driver’s licenses, passports, visas and more.

Passengers who desire control of their PII (personally identifiable information) can take heart in knowing that there are present solutions to ease airport processes which prioritize interoperability and a privacy-by-design approach.

A high level of effectiveness and privacy is key to generating trust from users. Passenger identity must remain consistently trusted and secure throughout the journey, not just for the best possible customer experience, but also for security and operational efficiencies. This reality makes clear federal frameworks all the more critical to aiding the climb of biometrics to a mainstay of the airport experience.

Jason Van Sice serves as vice president of advanced recognitions systems for NEC Corporation of America, a wholly-owned subsidiary of global technology leader NEC Corporation.

Copyright © 2023 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Related Stories