Imagine breezing through the airport during peak holiday travel time using your face, fingerprint or iris to readily board your plane within 10 minutes of arrival. A self-parking service awaits as you pull up to a device that scans your iris or fingerprint, directing you to the closest open parking space. Your pre-tagged bag is automatically whisked onto the plane enabled by biometric verification. Your iris is also scanned at the security checkpoint to verify you are low-risk, known traveler. You’ve never had so much time before your flight.
The U.S. was one of the first to pioneer biometrics – specifically fingerprinting – in airports for all foreign nationals entering the U.S for immigration and national security purposes. Biometrics are now being implemented for traveler convenience in a few airports worldwide to speed travelers through airports and immigration control. London’s Heathrow airport just announced the trial of facial biometrics for self-boarding. These programs are enabling impressive efficiency, while maintaining and even enhancing security. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry System (GES), for example, is an automated immigration clearance system for low-risk travelers using biometrics. Travelers using GES have a predictable, faster immigration clearance experience by avoiding the typical lengthy processing.
By fast tracking travelers through self-service processes with biometric identification, airports would create the “airport of the future” with greater convenience and time savings. For the airport industry that competes heavily for airline business, biometrics offers real opportunities to market a particular airport as far simpler and convenient to use. Another plus is that travelers could use their new free time to shop and dine, benefiting airport retailers and restaurants.
In addition to convenience, biometrics allows security personnel to focus more on real threats versus the low-risk, everyday traveler. While some may argue biometrics is an invasion of privacy, biometrics would be an optional program for travelers.
Despite the privacy issues, airport predictability and ease of travel are immeasurable to the frequent traveler, who wants a predictable experience from the time they arrive at the airport until they board their flight. Could this new technology help return us to the days of more enjoyable travel?