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Faster, Easier, Safer Through the Airport of the Future

[Commitments and Society] Published 18-08-2022

The prospect of the “paperless airport” is driving innovation across the airports sector (photo: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi)

Facial recognition technology is driving a revolution in passenger air travel

Our experience of air travel is about to change. By some point before the end of this decade, there will be no need to print out a boarding pass or even show your passport – you will simply arrive at the airport and walk through onto the plane, stopping only to be screened at security.

This is the prospect of the “paperless airport” that is driving innovation across the airports sector.

Rising passenger numbers – now bouncing back after the pandemic – mean airports need to process much higher passenger numbers. But airports are facing huge difficulties in recruiting sufficient staff for all their manual checkpoints. Passenger queues have reached alarming proportions, so many airports are seeking automated self-service solutions.

The key to maintaining high levels of security in the paperless airport is biometric passenger identification, and particularly facial recognition. Major international airports in the process of introducing biometric solutions include Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo, Boston, New York and soon Miami.

In Europe, Hamburg Airport is one of the latest to introduce facial recognition for frequent travelers of certain Star Alliance airlines. Passengers merely register a selfie photograph on a mobile phone app, giving Star Alliance the permission to use their biometric profile for processing them through pre-security-checks and boarding. This touch-free and paperless solution allows passengers to move through the gates without needing to show any boarding pass or ID – the technology can recognise them even if they are wearing a mask over their nose and mouth.

Gunnebo’s pre-security and self-boarding gates are central to this new paperless experience at more than 40 other major airports around the world:

“Facial recognition is almost a standard solution now in our projects in Asia and North America,” says René Kraemer, Business Development Director for Mass Transit at Gunnebo Entrance Control. “Paperless passenger processing and ID management, with facial recognition cameras integrated into our gates, is becoming an ever more important factor.”

Data protection remains an important concern, and Gunnebo is working with systems integrators, airlines and airports to ensure that passenger privacy is respected. But surveys repeatedly confirm that an overwhelming majority of travelers is willing for companies to hold their biometric data to speed up airport processes.

“Every passenger who uses biometrics is a happy user,” says Tim Dettloff, Manager of Aviation Processes at Munich Airport Terminal 2.

“You don’t have to look for your boarding pass in several pockets or wallets to find it. You just use your face and pass the checkpoint.”

To read more about Gunnebo and the paperless airport, click here