Passengers looking for quicker processing times at airports around the world will be happy to know that experts in technology, defense, and travel are predicting a significant increase in biometric checks in airports around the globe in the coming years.
Using devices like retina, finger and facial scans, biometric checks not only provide a speedier check-in, but also ensures a higher degree of security.
“There has been a drive over the past few years by governments – with e-passports and e-visas – to include a biometric in the travel document to make sure the person is the legitimate owner of that document,” said Sean Farrell, the Sita biometrics portfolio director during a webinar on aviation information technology back in July.
Biometric passports include more passenger information than standard passports. Though they still contain essential information such as the passenger’s name, age, sex, place of birth and nationality, biometric passports can also contain fingerprints, facial patterns, DNA info, and iris scans. All of this information is stored on a microchip embedded in the passport called a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chip.
Some governments have already required that new passports for citizens include biometric information – usually facial scans or fingerprints.
In February, London’s Stansted airport introduced facial scanners called “Autogates” where a live image of the passenger standing at the gate is captured and biometric technology then compares this with the image stored on the chip embedded within the passport by measuring specific facial points. If there is a match and they clear security, the automatic gates allow the traveler across the border.
“We’re going to see biometrics grow very quickly from border management to other places at the airport,” Farrell said, noting the various expedited security clearance programs now in place. Referring to the program at Ben Gurion Airport, he explained that El Al’s frequent flyers can “use their credential at all the various points where they interact with the airline and the airport: checking in, immigration and boarding the flight.”
As of October 2009, over 79 countries had introduced biometric passports and over 100 million e-passports had been issued globally. With over 70 million new e-passports being issued every year, it is estimated that over the next ten years, most of the 750 million passports currently in use will be replaced by electronic passports.