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Tony Chapman, senior director, product management and strategic programs, global airports at Rockwell Collins, speaks to PTW about the progress being made with IATA’s One ID seamless travel initiative

What is meant by seamless travel?

Seamless travel through the airport means not having to keep producing documents of one form or another, be that passports, boarding passes or visas. A single token replaces all documents. Of course, border authorities on both sides can stop you if you’re a person of interest, but the vast majority of travelers will be able to enter a country without interruption. All this needs to be achieved at walking pace.

Ultimately the complete seamless travel experience relies on partnerships being formed between governments, but first we need to perfect the relevant technology for the departure process. This is where suppliers like Rockwell Collins can contribute. However, it may be 10 years before we see the finalized concept of seamless travel.

How do you create a universal method of exchanging passenger data?

That’s the challenge. Do you actually exchange data or do you provide a key that allows the destination country to examine the data without it traveling across borders? It’s possible to transfer such data but there are privacy and bandwidth concerns. It’s therefore better to have a unique token that travels with you and enables the border agency to access that information in the country of origin.

What technologies would be used? What should airports be investing in?

For the journey to be seamless we have to identify passengers at a distance, but it also needs to be accurate enough so that the border agencies on both sides can stop someone if they wish to. The most likely outcome is some form of facial recognition technology that captures your identity as you’re walking through a security funnel, rather than an individual gate. Facial scanning technology is becoming more advanced all the time and is capable of identifying people even when they’re not looking directly at the camera. The problem with other technologies such as iris identification and fingerprint scanning is that the token has to be registered with a traveler program in the first instance for it to be confirmed as your biometric. This is something they’re looking at in the Middle East because facial scanning technology isn’t always appropriate.

What part is Rockwell Collins playing?

Rockwell Collins is working closely with IATA on the One ID initiative. We are a member of one of the working groups and help to form ideas and concepts that can be applied to seamless travel. Each group is headed by an airline that ultimately decides on the best ideas to run with.

Rockwell is focused on the outbound journey and has integrated biometrics with passenger processing technology to assert the traveler’s identity at every touchpoint. This includes airside access, security, boarding and even duty free. For example, we’ve incorporated facial scanning technology with the self-service bag drop system, meaning that the drop points no longer need to be manned.

The USA currently has a huge initiative to biometrically validate each passenger traveling abroad. They’re using a slightly different technique as every traveler has a photo on file, from a passport or visa. The US Customs and Border Protection agency uses that image to validate that the traveler is the same person as the image on file. There are five or six airports taking part in the trial at the moment.

How can organizations like IATA and the ACI help facilitate the change?

IATA can be a key enabler by coordinating all the organizations, airlines and governments to come to an agreement. Logically the transference of identity information should be between governments and border force agencies, not airlines. However, in reality this is not the case and airlines are central to the transference of passenger data.

What are the biggest challenges?

The first thing that needs to happen is that an airline needs to work with two governments to trial a seamless travel setup. Seamless travel won’t happen with every government, but forward-thinking nations should take the lead. With passenger numbers set to double in the next decade or so, we simply have to move passengers through the airport faster and place greater focus on identifying individuals of interest.

What would be the next major milestone?

The whole biometric journey for the outbound process needs to gain more traction for trials between countries and a universal framework to move forward. It’s moving rapidly from trials to full-scale production at the moment, so that’s going to be the key enabler that leads to the arrivals piece. IATA’s definition is that the process needs to be conducted at walking pace – that’s the key thing to note. Passengers will have to stop for security screening, that’s unavoidable, but the rest should be seamless.

December 1, 2017

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About Author


Kirstie joined the team in early 2017 and brings writing, communications and client experience with her. Now an assistant editor, she produces content for our magazines and websites. Away from the office, you will find her blogging on her lifestyle website or searching the internet for photos of sausage dogs.

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