Seamless airport flow

Digital ID and face recognition technologies provide touchless, contactless, and convenient processes from reservation to destination.

Low-contact customer experiences that streamline traveler movement through airports is the future of aviation, according to hundreds of executives in recent polls by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX).

Numerous airlines are already turning to contactless biometric identification to promote safety and security and address market disruptions. With nearly 70% of aviation industry stakeholders anticipating a continuing spike in digital transformation spending, according to Fast Future market researchers, face recognition ID technology represents one of today’s most promising new areas of industry investment.

“The world’s most successful airlines continue to leverage high-tech solutions to streamline operations and place growing focus on optimization, automation, and agility,” says Jason Van Sice, VP of aviation for IT and network solutions leader NEC Corporation of America’s Advanced Recognition Systems division. “Interoperable software platforms such as NEC I:Delight—which leverages face recognition technology to let users create their own unique Digital IDs to be used at check-in, bag drop, security checkpoints, VIP lounges, and boarding at airports across the globe—are helping support carriers’ efforts to innovate.”

Delta Air Lines has introduced a fully biometric terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with plans to roll out additional solutions at airports nationwide. The solution supports self-service check-in, drop-and-go baggage, and automated checkpoint screening using face recognition.

By eliminating the need for physical documents and manual identification checks, these solutions can verify a user’s Digital ID with a face scan in as little as 1.5 seconds, allowing biometric-based technology to keep airline staff safely distanced and passengers moving. Such cutting-edge advancements not only enable touchless curb-to-gate processing at the airport, they also enable applications that can be used to book rideshare pickups, check in to hotels, manage travel reservations, and even make purchases from airport retailers with a literal glance.

“The ability for travelers to enroll on their mobile phone, then use biometric identification capabilities to breeze through multiple travel touchpoints, including security check, or make secure purchases with partnering hotels and retailers is game changing,” says Van Sice. “Applications such as these open many promising new business possibilities.”

Star Alliance, a grouping of 26 member airlines, began developing a biometrics application in 2019 that could streamline travel processes and provide a cutting-edge customer experience. The solution, “Star Alliance Biometrics”, developed with NEC, now has a new benefit: creating touchless and hygienic processes during a global pandemic.

“Biometrics solutions are important as we move forward for the industry and for airports,” says Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh. “First and foremost, it will offer a seamless customer experience. Second, it will offer the hygiene safety experience that customers are expecting coming out of the coronavirus crisis. But importantly, for many, many airports, infrastructural constraints have been a problem. And biometrics solutions will take away some of those infrastructural concerns.”

NEC’s Digital ID platform, powered by NEC I:Delight, supports infinite IT scalability and elasticity—a boon to growing businesses. It offers a single, easily extendable, and convenient point from which to manage digital identity for customers and employees alike. It can also integrate with different networks and systems, which helps minimize concerns like language barriers. The role that biometric solutions play in the aviation business will only continue to grow in coming years.

“Our Digital ID system provides airlines with detailed insights and analytics into processes and customer behaviors so that they can operate with the flexibility needed to handle unexpected events, like sudden travel spikes,” says Van Sice. “We’ve designed this technology to promote business elasticity so that it can be adapted for a variety of common workplace contexts and needs.”

The Hawaii Dept. of Transportation (HDOT) is using NEC face recognition and walk-by thermal scanners to ensure travelers’ compliance with state health and travel guidelines. Future updates will add new capabilities, such as analysis that reveals if overheads are full prior to carry-on boarding.

NEC’s Digital ID technology can also be used to benefit airport workers, providing secure entry points with biometric access management and health screening based on self-provided data and automated temperature scans. NEC I:Delight is designed to protect users’ privacy and secure their personal data, and applications such as Star Alliance Biometrics are enabled only for users who opt-in to the service.

“Our strategy here is to create a better customer experience, recognizing the fast-changing world of the future, in terms of customer expectations and also customer experience,” Goh says. And these advancements won’t just continue to power growing convenience and more efficient operations going forward. They’ll also enable an ever-growing number of innovations to take flight in the years to come.