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Identity management: A meeting of minds

Published on  09 September by Jim Peters , Chief Technology Officer
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Remarkable progress towards a common vision

In the space of just a few months the air transport industry and US government have made remarkable progress towards a common vision for identity management of the future.

This new alignment promises to fast track the introduction of a truly frictionless passage through security and immigration at airports in the US.

Last month, SITA had the pleasure of attending the Plug and Play International Passenger Travel Forum, where leadership from US security agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and US Customs and Border Protection(CBP)were investigating ideas for new technology solutions that could help transform the travel experience.

At the conference Armin Ebrahimi, CEO of ShoCard and SITA’s partner exploring the travel identity of the future, was a member of a panel discussion on how blockchain technology could deliver a solution for next-gen innovation for passenger facilitation and convenience.

As if she had been participating in our industry discussions, TSA Deputy Administrator Dr. Huban Gowadia started the day with a challenge: “Can you imagine a day when your face is your boarding pass? We can.” This has created quite a stir and all of us in attendance have noticed.

What a difference a few months can make.

In March, at the Connect:ID event in Washington DC, we asked officials from the TSA and CBP to consider whether they could envision an airport of the future where passengers could be provided a frictionless process and what would be required to get there. We used the example of frequent-flyers as known travelers, being able to “walk through the airport security and screening processes without breaking their stride” using single token technology.

Their response: Every traveler is a potential first time offender, so all must be subjected to the same screening process. However, it was noted that if designated travelers met a set of designated attributes, then it might be conceivable.

That was our “ah-ha” moment. What they said back in March revealed the key to us moving forward together.

In the air transport industry a “trusted traveler” has generally been seen as a frequent traveler: the regular, predictable, knowledgeable traveler, likely to be a high-ranking member in a loyalty membership program, whose biographical information and travel history, we readily have on file. 

In the government’s view, however, the only trusted traveler is one who is a vetted member of a registered traveler program. In the US, that equates to passengers registered with the TSA’s Pre-Check or Global Entry, travelers who have been submitted to background checks and have biometrics on file. These are the only perceived low-risk travelers; although they are still expected to submit to the same screening processes, just a “lighter” version with shorter queues.

With the various parties making progress towards an agreed approach, we have reframed our focus: imagine the airport of the future where the majority of travelers are willing to participate in these programs as a means of simplifying the screening process and to help the government in fulfilling its security obligations in an effort to keep our skies safer.

Envision now, too, that security agents are no longer solely stationed at desks, performing mundane, repetitive tasks, but are now free to move about the airport scanning for potential threats and employing behavioral analytics techniques, helping those travelers who need special assistance. Think about the additional security and assurance that these single-travel token identity solutions – including those being explored by SITA and ShoCard – can provide.

Obviously, a number of factors have led to this alignment: industry-wide collaboration, a number of new technology innovations, a record of successful biometric trials in international markets. We applaud all involved in leading the way and are eager to be a part of crafting a collective vision for the future of travel.

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