Airport of the future: No more lines at airport security


By using artificial intelligence and biometrics we can envision a world where time-consuming and frustrating airport security lines are replaced by automated identification systems that make it possible for passengers to breeze through with much less hassle.

Remember back in the 1980s when people used to wait in hour-long lines to have their checks cashed on payday? Direct deposit ended the lines. The combination of AI and biometrics has the potential to be equally as transformative at airports, as part of a kiosk-driven security process.

Here’s a kiosk scenario: A passenger walks up to a kiosk in the front of the airport and scans her baggage. The AI machine checks the passenger in and issues tags for her bags. After that, she takes the tags to a self-service security check terminal, scans her boarding pass and looks into a facial recognition camera screen to confirm her identity. If everything matches, she puts her bags on the carousel to be sent to the plane. The passenger can then walk to the gate, where she scans her boarding pass on her phone and boards the plane.

This vision of the airport of the future could be much more widespread in a matter of months. The kiosk system described above was already piloted this summer by Delta at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, and JetBlue recently piloted a facial recognition system for flights from Boston to Aruba. In both cases, passenger identities were verified through a passport database managed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Instead of showing their passport and boarding pass to ticket agents at the gate, passengers stood in front of facial recognition screens that confirmed their identity. In a matter of seconds, the system checked the U.S. Customs and Border Protection database to see if the passenger’s face matched the picture in their passport. Passengers interviewed following the pilot’s launch said they really liked the convenience, especially passengers traveling overseas with small children. They can clear security and board the plane without having to show multiple paper passports.

Automated kiosks promise to dramatically transform the airport’s relationship with security and the TSA. As we continue to use AI and biometrics to uniquely identify people, objects and their relative location, security professionals become the added random check and expert support if the automated information does not look correct. In the future, airports will need TSA agents for random selection, passenger support and incident response – a more engaging role, and one that makes the travel experience more positive.

Professional travelers will love these new systems for the simple reason that they save time. Since travel pros are more predictable and willing to share added details, the airports and airlines can continue to use special fast-track services for frequent travelers. The automated systems can pre-register a passenger’s lounge access, provide location-sensitive directions to their favorite restaurant or suggest loyalty point shopping options.

Of course, the collection and tracking of a customer’s image and identity data will need to be handled carefully, given the new data protection regulations being implemented. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), for example, will have a significant impact on how travelers’ personal data is stored and used, and the airline industry will need to navigate through this regulation carefully to avoid the hefty fines levied for non-compliance.

Ultimately, AI’s ability to uniquely identify people and their belongings in a context-aware way will increase speed, customer convenience and safety at the airport of the future. It has the potential to make waiting in long lines for routine checks a thing of the past. And in crisis situations, location-aware airport security systems can optimally route passengers, send continuous communications to them and let security personnel know the location of every person in the airport. Instead of random movement and panic, passengers will have clear instructions on where to go next, and with intelligent signage, immediate instructions can be put in place to help evacuate an airport or terminal quickly and safely. Airport and security authorities will be able to use these tools more effectively to identify threats and make the travel experience safer and much more comfortable.

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the airport of the future. See the third post.

Michael S. Deittrick was chief technology officer for travel and transportation at DXC Technology. He left the company in February 2018. A thought leader in digital enterprise transformation and business outcome enablement strategies, he is responsible for enterprise solution development and digital strategy for the travel and transportation sector. Mike focuses on the “why” of technology to derive greater business outcomes for his customers. He is the original media geek, having worked on consumer media and technology convergence strategies in the mid- to late 1990s with the MIT Media Lab and Cyberworks (IPG-Campbell-Ewald).

Chris Moyer is chief technology officer for Security at DXC Technology. He has spent more than 25 years building business and technology solutions for clients in several industries across multiple geographies. In previous roles, he has led solutioning, transformation projects and delivery assurance. He is also a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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