Facial recognition technology at Indian airports – A way forward, explains Deepak Talwar

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As a part of first phase of Digi Yatra, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is working on a project of facial recognition technology (FRT). Minister of State in the Ministry of Civil Aviation General VK Singh states informed that FRT will be implemented at four airports – Varanasi, Pune, Kolkata, and Vijaywada. A renowned seasoned market analyst and lobbyist, Deepak Talwar explains how with the right technology like advanced biometric and facial recognition solutions, airports can make an air travel journey a pleasant one.

Earlier, what used to be a pleasant experience is now jammed by long lines, time-consuming security checks, and constant stress. Standing in one que after another, travellers waste ample time when they wait on check-in counters, the TSA screening lines, boarding strings at several gates, and even the self-service booth. To seemingly speed-up boarding and sift out security threats, facial recognition and biometric technology is the correct way forward in India.

While many countries have already made use of this technology, Deepak Talwar states an example of Raoul Cooper, British Airways’ senior digital design manager, who informs that the technology seem to have become ubiquitous in recent years, but it is not new to airports. In sync with many other airlines operating domestically to and from London’s Heathrow Airport, they are using facial recognition on traveller for over eight or nine years.

Counting on various advantages of facial recognition, Talwar mentions that advanced facial recognition can efficiently and accurately verify a traveller’s identity. It can also match them against security watchlists and flight manifests which is a safer alternative. As it can ensure the identification of an individual dropping off luggage by comparing and matching with their luggage tags, it will help with the bag drops too. This would reduce the manual efforts of baggage attendants who can potentially screen more luggage and check fewer IDs.

Coming to the next advantage, use of this technology allows travellers to move through security checkpoints more quickly and smoothly. Additionally, facial recognition technology can make in-airport entertainment more secure and enjoyable even at a crowded terminal. With the use of this technology, airlines can automate the boarding process and reduce the need for extra gate personnel. It eliminates the need of paper which essentially means on-time departures.

While the technique is efficient in several arenas, it still hold some challenges. Similar to already existing biometrics, facial recognition also relies on advanced techniques including fingerprints, or measuring data points on an individuals’ hand or face. It is possible to feed a reader of the data stream (i.e. data points) from an authorized user, directly into the device by physically disrupting or interfering with the fibre optics line, or in some cases, using an internet connection.

Consequently, precautions are taken by the government in order to prevent the leakage of passenger data. The Digi Yatra policy states that the registering for its Central Ecosystem is choice of the passenger. In order to take benefit of Digi Yatra services, travellers need to fill their travel details such as Pax details and PNR. Additionally, face biometrics can be sent through an app directly to the Biometric Boarding System of the airport the passenger is departing from.

“Technologies can personalised, secure and frictionless experience to passengers who travel by-air. Collectively, facial recognition provides accurate identification, reduce wait time, and streamline the whole airline and airport experience. With facial recognition and identification solutions, passenger convenience and security can coexist once again,” concludes Deepak Talwar.

Last modified: January 3, 2022

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