Biometric self-service - taking the next steps | SITA

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Biometric self-service - taking the next steps

Published on  08 November by Sherry Stein , Senior Manager of Projects & Innovation, SITA Lab
2 comment(s)

Looking at the results of SITA’s ‘2018 Air Transport IT Insights’ it’s clear to me that the air transport industry is on an inexorable trajectory towards biometric self-service as a critical element of the seamless passenger journey.

The research shows that airlines and airports are increasingly investing in, and piloting, biometric solutions to achieve automated passenger ID management, as part of a focus on technologies that offer strategic and operational benefits.

The installation of self-boarding gates using biometrics for identity verification is now looming large on the radar of airlines, with 63% of them having implementations today or a planning to do so by 2021, according to the SITA Insights research.

Likewise, biometric technology is high on airport agendas, with 77% of airports looking for biometric identity management solutions in the quest to realize a seamless passenger experience across the various steps of the journey.

These solutions include the implementation of self-boarding gates equipped with camera systems and facial recognition solutions. These support paperless travel via the use of biometrics in lieu of manual, paper boarding pass or passport/document checks: 59% of airports have implementations and/or plans by 2021. Thanks to the industry’s focus on the seamless journey, these gates could be commonplace by the end of 2021, based on industry research and survey results.

Investment priorities: biometric identity management solutions

% of airlines and airports using or planning self-boarding gates using biometric and travel documents by 2021


The findings bode well for air travel’s future

These are exciting findings, and they bode well for the future of air travel and the seamless passenger experience. But as the industry continues to adopt self-service solutions that deploy biometric technologies, before taking the next steps it’s important to be mindful of a few considerations. These will help to avoid investing in solutions that may not meet industry expectations and regulatory requirements.

Considerations before going ahead

All self-service solutions must meet essential core criteria to foster adoption and achieve success.

To gain adoption and create the willingness for customers to participate (opt in), there must be a clear message and customer value proposition:

  • Are you offering VIP service? Shorter wait times? Membership perks? A fun experience?
  • Is this simply the chance to be an early adopter (some people just like to be first to try new things!)?

In addition to the customer value proposition, there’s the need for stakeholder acceptance, meaning that the needs of all stakeholders must be met.

  • Clearly address how the solution meets the needs for airline, airport, government and traveler stakeholders.
  • Continue to revisit this at various stages since needs may change as new information becomes available.

The ability to deliver and continually meet objectives is critical, requiring the right business tools and core competency.

  • To succeed, the project requires stakeholder collaboration, with access to the right organizational resources: people, partners, tools, technology, process and funds that allow the team to create success.
  • This, more than anything, is the ‘secret sauce’. It’s difficult to replicate, unique to each organization, and it creates the key opportunity for differentiation in the solution design and implementation.

Never forget that regulation will continue to change. Take General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for example. As regulation evolves to keep pace with changing technology advancements and consumer demand, we must be mindful of the responsibility to protect consumers and data as part of standard practices.

Regardless of these changes, all systems and processes should abide by at least the same minimum core principles:

  • Traceability – clearly understand and document what, where and why data is collected, processed, stored and/or deleted.
  • Opt out – as important as the choice to ‘opt in’ is the ability to opt out and to provide assurance that data is permanently removed from the system(s).
  • Privacy by design – have policies to ensure that data is only used for its intended purpose, held for its intended time, accessed only by authorized personnel, and protected in accordance with best practices and controls.

A collaborative way forward

One way to stay mindful of the considerations, and to be sure to cooperate effectively with all other stakeholders needed to successfully develop and adopt biometric self-service solutions is, of course, to work with a technology partner like SITA.

Our Insights research shows that 42% of airlines surveyed already had an innovation collaboration strategy in place, with a further 27% developing a strategy. Airport innovation collaboration strategies take various partnership forms, with the most common being via contracted parties (30%).

SITA works collaboratively with many airline and airport customers around the world to develop and innovate in the area of identity management. Examples include Australia’s Brisbane Airport and Air New Zealand, British Airways and Orlando Airport, Hamad International Airport, and our award-winning JetBlue and the US Customs and Border Protection initiative.

I believe we’re at a pivotal time for technology in air travel. As our 2018 Air Transport IT Insights research makes clear, new digital technologies promise to meet many of the issues faced by our industry. The adoption of biometric self-service aligns well with the industry’s pressing needs, and if we embrace it well, we can look forward to stepping ever closer to the seamless passenger journey.

For more

SITA’s White Paper: ‘Biometrics for better travel - an ID management revolution

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  • Published on17 January 2019 10:14 PM by Sherry Stein
    Hi Sunita, thank you for your feedback and your interest in this topic. In general practice, when we talk about the option to opt-out, it means the traveler is offered the choice of using the "self-service" option, as described above, and will generally have an alternative "full-service" option, where they meet with an airline agent who manually guides the traveler through the traditional process. The complexity that organizations now face is that where GDPR or equivalent regulation applies, if a traveler has previously opted-in, the organization must offer an "opt-out" option and have practices in place to remove the data. Data management and data retention policies and practices become a crucial element in determining the IT strategy. As you rightly say, not just internally but also where data is shared with other suppliers and systems. SITA Market Analysis and IT Insights are generally provided at the global level, but I'll see if we can help you with regional data and can coordinate with you offline.
  • Published on10 January 2019 04:49 AM by sunita marwah
    Hi Sherry You have nicely summed up the pre implementation phase. I have a concern regarding the Opt Out option at systems level as there are no. Of different back end systems adopted by various airlines and airports . All the IT systems are very complex and integrated with a no. Of in-house as well as as other stakeholders systems . As I am based at India, I would be interested in knowing the statistics pertaining to India Region . Thanks Sunita Marwah
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