airport security biometrics

Airport Security is Due for a First-Class Upgrade

From 1968 to 1972, hijackers used to take over commercial airplanes about every two weeks. With that in mind, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that in 1970, travelers didn’t have to show ID or go through a metal detector in most instances.

It’s definitely nice to see how far we’ve come in terms of airport security. With the help of technological advances, airport security has become more effective at detecting threats and getting people to their gates in a somewhat timely manner. However, there are still major improvements that need to be made. Biometrics will be at the center of these airport security improvements, and it can offer solutions to make hijackings and violence in airports a thing of the past. 

The Holes Biometrics Can Fill

Checking in:

The longest unbroken line on Earth is over 8,000 miles long. The second-longest is any check-in line at an airport the night before a major holiday.

The initial airline check-in is usually the first part of the security process. Many major airlines have begun to catch on to the beauty of self-check-in, eliminating some of the lines that travelers back in the day may remember. But that process could be even more streamlined with the help of biometrics. Rather than scanning a passport or inputting your confirmation number, airlines like Finnair have experimented with biometrics such as facial recognition to verify a customer’s identity quickly so that they can make their way to the security check-point more efficiently.

Doppelgangers and mistaken identity:

There isn’t much to stop someone from using a lookalike’s passport for travel. This issue can also cut the other way for innocent parties. For example, someone could have a similar name to a criminal and be put onto a Do Not Fly list, with little hope of being removed within a timely fashion. However, government agencies, airports, and airlines are using biometrics to keep this from happening. US Customs and Border Protection has been using biometrics since 2004 and continues to test ways to make sure that travelers are who they say they are.

One intrepid airport is also actively beginning to test face authentication to avoid the problem of mistaken identity. Dubai International Airport is planning to construct a virtual aquarium tunnel with invisible cameras to authenticate travelers faces as they walk through. They plan to have this done by next summer, and it would be in lieu of customs agents at security check-points. Travelers would register their faces at kiosks, along with other personal information, and those scans would be checked against the cameras in the tunnel. If the cameras are able to verify your face, you get a green light to proceed, and if not, you go through extra security with an airport official.

In addition to being a new way to use biometrics in airport security, the tunnel is also meant to calm passengers as they head to their flights – because we all know how stressful flying can be.

Keeping criminals out:

Airport security doesn’t just keep people from causing mayhem on the plane or in the airport – it often dovetails with national security, and keeps criminals from crossing borders.

It’s relatively easy to procure a fake passport, but it’s harder to fake your fingerprints or your iris patterns. Plus, a fingerprint could be cross-checked through an international database to determine whether someone is a criminal (INTERPOL has systems that allow for this). This would help airport security accurately detain the criminal before they crossed the border so the appropriate legal system could take over.

The far too regular hijackings in the early 1970s are hard to imagine now. Thanks to advances in investigative technology and biometrics, we’re approaching a future where hijackings may disappear altogether. It’s a future where we’ll be able to fly with just our fingertips, eyes, and faces. 

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