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Can biometrics rewrite the future of travel and say bye to airport queues?

Can biometrics rewrite the future of travel and say bye to airport queues?

pretty indian business woman checking flight information at airport

As airlines and airports embrace biometrics to significantly improve passenger experience, biometric data economy has emerged as one of the major trends in travel experience. If you are wondering what’s the real value in leveraging biometrics, it helps airlines use big data to personalize products and create real value for flyers by turning travel into a seamless paperless experience. Another key highlight is that the biometric data generated also helps to meet the high security criteria demanded by governments across the globe to make informed decisions.  

Analytics India Magazine caught up with Maneesh Jaikrishna, Vice President, India and Subcontinent, SITA to discuss how “Big Data” can effectively be used to build a connecting bridge between the flyer and online activities. Airlines already hold a tremendous amount of data on their passengers — particularly their frequent flyers with every interaction being logged and stored.

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With the agreement of the passenger, this data can be used to build a clearer picture of who they are and how the airline can micro-target you with everything from ‘personalized’ fares to double status credits deals, shared Jaikrishna, explaining how big data can be used to create an enriched travel experience. “At every step of the journey, the data is being monitored and suggestions are provided to the passengers based on their preferences or data captured, including information they opt to share around their social media activities,” he further added.

Role of biometric in personalizing travel & in-flight experience

The future of aviation is being shaped by biometrics and the idea is to make the entire travel experience hassle free, secure and seamless for the passengers. Identity Management is one key area where the industry can streamline the passenger experience using technology and the use of biometrics is central to that. With biometric technology, travelers can avoid showing documents at each stop through the airport, explained Jaikrishna, making airline queues a thing of the past. And globally, Delta Airlines and Jet Blue Airways have already put this in motion by testing biometric boardings at select airports.  Another case in point is Australia’s Brisbane Airport that has implemented SITA Smart Path™, a biometric and automated passenger screening solution that enables passengers to present their details at a self-service kiosk at check-in then, when ready to board and use an automated boarding gate to be verified using face recognition technology.

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Exploring the JetBlue use case

Jaikrishna talked about the most recent trial, where they worked with JetBlue and the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to test a new paperless and deviceless self-boarding process as part of ongoing trials to implement the US biometric exit process in the future. Interestingly, JetBlue is the first airline to integrate with CBP to use biometrics and facial recognition technology to verify customers at the gate during boarding.

How it works:

Ø  Those who opt in during the boarding process can put away their boarding passes and devices and simply step up to the camera for a quick photo

Ø  The custom-designed camera station will connect to CBP to instantly match the image to passport, visa or immigration photos in the CBP database and verify flight details

Ø  A cleared to board (or not cleared) notification appears on the screen for the passenger and is also sent to the airline’s systems

Airline Industry is ripe for AI & cognitive computing

AI has impacted every sector and as airports grapple to embrace digital technology —  next-gen technologies AI, cognitive computing and predictive analytics can be leveraged in a lot of ways to “predict and prepare for future to tackle the estimated US$25 billion cost of flight disruptions to the air transport industry”. From automating manual processes to predicting flight delays, premium airlines such as Emirates is already using AI to remodel the ticketing process and make flying experiences more personalized. However, the real promise lies in AI autopilots that can help navigate cockpits effectively and complex flights. The Boeing company has already taken the first step in this direction by establishing a research initiative — Boeing/Carnegie Mellon Aerospace Data Analytics Lab to leverage CMU’s prowess in machine learning, language technologies and data analytics. According to Boeing, the aim is to find ways to use AI and big data to cash in on the enormous amount of data generated in the design, construction and operation of modern aircraft.

India Growth story

In India, the Ministry of Civil Aviation is working towards creating an integrated platform that will use a passenger’s Aadhaar-based biometric information for the check-in process across all airports. SITA’s 2016 India IT Trends Benchmark study pointed out that when it came to small-scale R&D projects, airlines and airports in India were most active in evaluating new technologies. 80% of airlines in India plan to assess the potential of IoT with R&D projects by 2019. And while India may be slow to embrace the power of digital, technologies such as wearables and biometric travel tokens for passengers will be evaluated by 75% of airlines in India over the next five years. “The whole idea of implementing biometrics in air travel is to cut short the time a passenger spends in airport queues for check-in purposes,” said Jaikrishna.

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