People walking through airport

How Biometrics and AI Move Passengers Through Airport Lines Swiftly and Securely

In airport environments, identity is everything. Security, convenience and safety all start with knowing who is passing through the airport. As airports must ensure that people are in the right place with the right credentials, aviation stakeholders are committed to implementing innovative biometric and identity technologies to streamline and automate passenger verification processes.

False matches and false rejections on an aviation biometric system can create disruptions in the otherwise seamless experiences enabled by identity technologies. And those disruptions can have a cascading effect — bottlenecks at check-in counters, long lines at security checkpoints and glitchy boarding procedures, to name just a few. The potential of a secure, seamless traveler experience can only be achieved if the biometric technology can provide consistent levels of accuracy regardless of environmental factors.

Looking Into the Light

Here’s the issue: every airport is a unique facility, filled with different environments that influence a biometric system’s ability to match a traveler to their digital identity. Lighting is a particularly difficult challenge to address. Some passenger touchpoints where a face scan is needed will have consistent lighting, but others may be affected by direct sunlight, harsh contrasting shadows or darkness. As airports run 24/7, passenger verification and identification at all touchpoints will need to operate in those challenging conditions at the same levels of high performance.

This is a known problem in the air travel and border control community. The ongoing testing initiatives undertaken by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have found that major factors in facial recognition matching accuracy in airport scenarios come down to the hardware used for image capture.

On the release of DHS’s 2022 Biometric Tech Rally, Arun Vemury, Senior Advisor of the DHS’ Biometric and Identity Technology Center, pointed out that the role of hardware in producing accurate matching rates was not reflected in the ongoing algorithms tests conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

“If you look at the NIST evaluations, you don’t realize that cameras are a problem,” said Vemury. “Through these types of evaluations that we do here, you get a better understanding of where the app errors happen in the overall system. And we have seen the aviation industry respond and provide better and better camera systems.”

Multispectral Imaging + AI Technology Address the Lighting Issue

Matching algorithms alone can’t properly address environmental factors in an airport. You also need the right kind of facial recognition and identification camera technology.

The HID U.ARE.U Camera Identification System combines patented multispectral imaging (MSI) technology with modern AI and machine learning algorithms to provide superior facial recognition in environments with widely changing light conditions. Patented imaging techniques enable the camera to measure an object’s inherent radiation independent of external light sources. By utilizing a combination of RGB and Near-Infrared (NIR) with 2D/3D sensing, the U.ARE.U Camera Identification System can address the challenges of total darkness or bright light for both indoor and outdoor use.

As part of HID’s modular offerings, the U.ARE.U cameras are an easy and fast way to quickly improve identification matching performance in airport facilities, strengthening the trust chains that are integral to the elevated passenger journey. There is no need to fully replace a biometric system — simply install better camera technology that can leverage AI and machine learning and see the improved matching performance along with passenger throughput and satisfaction.

To learn more about the challenges faced by airports and airlines, and how a modular approach to identity verification can solve them, download HID’s new eBook, Passenger Identity Verification: Opportunities and Challenges for Airlines and Airport Operations. Or explore HID’s passenger identity verification technologies.

Vito Fabbrizio is HID's Managing Director of Biometrics for Extended Access Technologies. He has 20+ years of experience in high-tech security hardware and software, driving strategic growth and product visibility for both mature and emerging markets. His unique blend of strategic and hands-on tactical skills has generated proven results to partners and customers in the security industry.