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API magazine
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October 1, 2020
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Interviews
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In the not too distant future, you could walk into the international terminal of almost any airport and board a plane without showing anyone your passport. This automated future is already a reality in different international airports. Biometric identification is booming in the aviation industry. Time to take a closer look at the technology and get an update on the market. We had an interview with Miguel Leitmann, co-founder of Vision-Box, an important player in  biometric identification, about the benefits and challenges of identity related technology solutions.

JFK airport

1. What’s the core business of Vison-Box and its position in the market?

Miguel Leitmann, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Vision-Box: “We create a world in which individuals choose to use their biometric identity to simplify their lives. We are recognized as the innovative leading developer of identity related technology solutions, meeting everyday challenges.

Vision-Box’s integrated solutions are based on the reliable enrollment and verification of individual biometrics establishing identity ground-truth. Throughout two decades of research and development, Vision-Box has driven fundamental technological advancements in identity management, spearheading the smart automation of complex people’s flow processes at prestigious Airports, Airlines and Government facilities that have become landmarks of the new digital area.

To date, Vision-Box has delivered over 6,000 electronic identity solutions across the globe, enabling and enhancing value-add services to hundreds of millions of citizens and around 700 million passengers every year.”

 

2. How does biometric recognition work?

Miguel Leitmann: “Biometric recognition is the authentication of a person based on an enrolled set of recognizable and verified physical traits unique and specific to the individual. The most commonly used forms of biometric tokens in transportation, border control and secure access identification is the person’s face, fingerprints and irises. However, for the last decade, facial recognition has been undoubtedly taking an increasing leading position in terms of globally interoperable modality, thanks to the large adoption of biometric passport and identity cards around the globe.

At the point of biometric capture, two distinct authentication procedures can be conducted: identification or verification of the person’s physical traits. Identification is the process of answering “Who are you?”. It involves searching biometric tokens in a database where many templates a restored. The personal data of the person to be identified is compared with the information stored in the database and matched to the correct template.

Verification is the process of answering, "Are you really who you say you are?". It involves authenticating the person’s biometrics by comparing the captured data to information stored in an electronic physical document such as an ePassport.

The technology has tremendously evolved over the last decade, and exponentially over the last 3 years by leveraging the fast development of Artificial Intelligence and Deep Machine Learning techniques which allow to accelerate and greatly improve the performance of the algorithms to a degree which unleash the power of processing large amounts of identities in real time, with accuracy rates getting close to 99%.”

 

3. What is it used for in airports?

Miguel Leitmann: “Modern biometric identity management platforms provide airports with a secure environment that enhances identity security while expediting throughput at unprecedented pace. Biometric technology transforms what was a subjective series of identification points into a more secure yet seamless, paperless process. The only thing required is the passenger’s biometric token which virtualizes both the passport and the boarding pass. The automated process enhances the capability and capacity of ground agents, security and border officers with instant and accurate passenger identification and background checks. This also provides airport management with tools for real-time decisions on resources and personnel to optimize the passenger clearance for more on-time flight departures.     

Biometric technology modernizes the operational capability of the airport for an end-to-end seamless passenger journey from curbside to boarding. The implementation of biometric identity management offers travelers an optimized airport experience while offering management and security stakeholders maximum control over passenger flow and data. Vision-Box offers orchestrated and scalable self-service technology that addresses each of these needs with maximum capability and performance in order to redefine how airport resources and passenger flow is managed.

The combination of those innovations are geared towards solving congestion within terminal buildings, while enabling real-time collaboration between the involved parties, allowing for the first time to harmoniously combine security and facilitation. By engineering future-proof solutions, Vision-Box is creating an airport ecosystem that addresses how much terminal space is needed for passenger flow area planning, enabling the infrastructure to be utilized for other means which produce non-aeronautical revenues and offer traveler-centric experiences.”

 

4. Is it realistic that within a few years we can pass security checkpoints and board planes, without having to pullout our passports?

Miguel Leitmann: “This is the reality now. Digital identity passenger systems are already reshaping and transforming the global travel environment by providing seamless and paperless experiences across travel hubs. Using Vision-Box Travel & Border Control portfolio, passengers are being identified and recognized by service providers at airports in Aruba, Bangalore, JFK, Carrasco and Schiphol, among others. These airports are gradually offering seamless pre-cleared travel experiences that eliminate the repetitive clearance process of showing an ID multiple times through the airport journey.

Eventually, technologies such as Mobile ID, cross-border passenger identification, home-to-home passenger biometric authentication and multi-government collaborative digital networks will completely transform the passenger experience beyond the airport itself. These platforms will realize the full capability and capacity of passenger management and identity security for seamless traveler clearance throughout multiple international airports in virtually every travel scenario.”

 

5. Where can we already find these systems? And what are the first results of the implemented biometric ID systems? 

Miguel Leitmann: “Kempegowda International Airport (Bangalore, India) is a great example of where this technology is being implemented. The Digi Yatra Passenger Clearance Platform is an industry-led initiative in coordination with India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation. Vision-Box is the first company in India to deliver a fully biometric enabled airport, sustained by Orchestra, its award-winning Seamless Flow platform. It is improving air travel through the 4 key elements of Connected Passengers, Connected Airports, Connected Flying and Connected Systems. The Digi Yatra passenger experience features biometric identification for a paperless and seamless curb-to-boarding clearance. Passengers experience a seamless journey through entry point, check-in, baggage drop, security and aircraft boarding, simply using their face to clear their progress into the airport.

The results are excellent. Upon initial registration, Orchestra verifies the passenger’s identity using facial recognition. After positive authentication of the traveler’s face biometry, biographic data and flight ticket, the passenger can continue unencumbered through the multiple checkpoints all the way to boarding. His journey is orchestrated through the collaborative platform where all the stakeholders can responsibly share relevant information to optimize the flow and take real-time decisions in case of exceptions management.

In addition to optimizing the passenger experience, Orchestra enhances data protection by giving travelers the capacity to manage their personal biographic and biometric data in the multiple stakeholder environments. Data protection regulatory aspects are safeguarded through a Privacy-by-Design certified ecosystem that provides maximum protection and privacy while minimizing the risk of personal data leakage. Personal biographic and biometric data is managed by a thoroughly audited and certified software platform designed for maximum protection of all personal data for maximum assurance of privacy.

Orchestra connects passengers to airports and airlines in a manner that is transforming and reshaping the traveler experience where your face becomes your boarding pass.”

 

6. What are the most important advantages?

Miguel Leitmann: “Digital identification technology will fundamentally change the operational and commercial dynamic of multiple sectors. Biometric technology in conjunction with identity management platforms rapidly evolved from providing marginal benefits to driving a fundamental change in the business model of the airport ecosystem. The impact of biometric systems at airports has been positive for their operational model as with was when introduced into border control. The ability to identify a traveler without any form of physical document at any stage of the departure or arrival journey is a major alteration and benefit to how passengers, airport, airlines and government agencies interact and exchange information.

Initiatives like the IATA One-ID framework represent landmark achievements in the progression of seamless travel and markedly improve the passenger experience through digital identification technology. The digital liberation of the passenger improves the travel experience and connects the individual to the transportation ecosystem in a way never seen before. It will help solve the growth challenges of the industry while successfully delivering unparalleled economical and security benefits to society.” 

  

LAX airport

 

7. Next to the use in arrival and departure systems, where else can it be used in the airport sector?

Miguel Leitmann: “One of its most important advancements is its use in pre-clearing travelers when crossing immigration between two unconnected borders. This transformation will deploy a seamless, paperless border crossing, allowing trusted cross-governments digital identity coordination between two or more countries. It will leverage biometrics and, digital identity management to clear the passengers’ entire journey at the departure airport and pre-clears immigration at the arrival airport. Using a trusted framework between governments, the traveler doesn’t need to stop or show travel documents.

A new chapter of the Happy Flow program is also being written in Aruba(Caribbean), where the local government and WTTC (World Tourism & Travel Council) just signed a cooperation agreement to expand the OneID program beyond the airport. Starting in 2020, seamless travel outside of the airport will be expanded to allow travelers to check-in at their hotel or pick-up their rental vehicle, just using their face. It will connect travelers to airports in a manner that is revamping the traveler journey inside and outside the airport. The traveler’s digital identity is used to secure and shape an efficient travel experience that streamlines the passenger’s journey between hotel, rent a car, arrivals and departures, under the hospices of a holistic orchestration platform which manages the flow and progress of each traveler.

These innovations will expand the aviation business model for enhanced passenger clearance, flow efficiency, identity security and journey control. The biometric digital identity connecting the individual to vertical travel ecosystems  is the key to enabling passenger flow facilitation, enhanced business models between stakeholders and higher security for an effective risk-based management and control. Vision-Box and its trusted partners are leading this transformation at the benefit of global interoperability and the full realization of the IATA OneID program on a worldwide scale.”

8. What are the biggest challenges for the biometric ID business?

Miguel Leitmann: “The challenges we face, as an industry player, are demanding but by no means insurmountable. Clients want the option to choose the most efficient, secure and cost-effective solution that meets their needs and evolves their business model while being compatible with their existing technological infrastructure. Harmonizing the introduction of new technology into a legacy environment, while minimizing the impact on the operation, is the key technical and operational challenge.

This means delivering technology and understanding the needs of every stakeholders including demonstrating a capability to transition successfully from legacy systems to new identity management technology with a low risk factor technique. We continuously strive to take into consideration the design of scalable biometrics and identity management technology that easily integrate with legacy systems such as those used by airports, airlines and government networks. Our goal over time is to remove those legacy components that are costly to maintain and support while ensuring non-disruption of the regular business process.

As seamless is introduced to more airports around the world, they will connect with each other and allow travelers to pass through different airports and countries without the use of travel documents. This will transform the working relationships between national and international agencies, airports, and border control points. Seamless experiences will shift the passenger journey from a point-to-point approach to a fully connected one. For this to happen, agencies like ICAO, IATA, ACI, and WCO must work together to finalize the definition of the standards and new regulations on Digital Travel Credentials. This is pivotal to liberate the use of Digital Passports and further promote the adoption of Biometrics and risk-based assessment models towards more efficient processes and seamless travel.

Although bearing in mind that the benefits of a robust Digital ID systems hall not be exclusive to the aviation industry, Vision-Box brings to the table a future-proof Identity Management As a Service (IDMaaS) platform which connects the various pre-departure, departure, transfer and arrivals processes, including the return trip – both in international and domestic travel. The passenger data is collected, admissibility is assessed, and identity is confirmed as early as possible in the process, and is subsequently shared, used and amended by all stakeholders. Governments of the modern world will increasingly offer and consume IDMaaS platforms, as they will truly enable the global movement of people, within in a risk-controlled environment and delivering economic benefits back to society.

Passenger ownership of their Identity and Data will be critical moving forward, including but not limited to clear consent management across platforms. In this area we are only just beginning to see the navigation of personal privacy protection that allows the passenger to choose how to use their personal data, to their benefit, and balanced against a clear understanding of its use, or for that matter potential misuse.”

 

We thank Miguel for sharing his vision and updates on biometric identification. 

For more information about biometric identification, go to https://www.vision-box.com