There is no doubt that the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need for a more "contactless" process across the travel and aviation industries, as the sector seeks to recover by demonstrating passenger safety. After nearly a year in lockdowns across the world, and with the virus still prevalent, people have been well conditioned for social distancing and reducing face to face contacts wherever possible. This is where seamless contactless biometric technology steps in, to help facilitate a safe ecosystem for passengers navigating through airports, from check in to boarding.
The focus of the industry has always been to create a smooth experience for travellers, and the future will only encapsulate this. According to a recent survey by IATA, 63 per cent of the world’s top airports, airlines, and government agencies sought to implement biometric technologies at airports for contactless travel, reflecting the urgency on creating a safe travel experience for passengers.
The implementation of biometric technology is nothing new but in effect, contactless or interacting without touching, requires higher levels of solutions and security in the worlds of aviation, border control and identity management. The need for such technological solutions has only been accelerated by the pandemic and will now be crucial in establishing a new and advanced era in travel.
The advantage that biometric contactless solutions bring is that they finally lead all the stakeholders, from the airline to the airport and authorities, to join and create a common process of passenger experience, which will address the challenges of long queues, traveller uncertainties, and provide key information which will help with border control. We provide an answer to this, through a repeat control process through an integrated single platform to make the process invisible to the passenger, creating a more efficient and positive experience.
This solution, which could represent an investment of 40 million euros for an airport, will put an end to long queues at airports and minimise contact between the traveller and staff, because it will force the airline, the airport operator and the official entities to create a common process.
It is this approach which will shape the future of travel where biometrics will be at the epicenter of the industry. The Middle East is testament to the outlook for the industry with Vision-Box having worked closely with Emirates to advance a digital shift in passenger operations at the Dubai International Airport. This included the implementation of advanced touchless biometrics and contactless clearance technology used at Terminal 3 which shifts the passenger clearance process from a manual interaction to one which has minimal physical contact through automated self-service device. This has enhanced the traveler experience across each stage and as a result is here to stay long after the pandemic. Going forward, we can expect the technology to adapt to meet the changing needs of the market and this will require even greater commitment from industry leaders to create innovations, ensuring aviation and the travel industry can prosper.
However, at present, the focus on recovery is paramount. There was a dramatic crash in passengers as airports were empty for months, and had to work at a minimal operational capacity. With many countries still in lockdown and travel bans continuing to be enforced, there is still a long way to go until airports and airlines can operate at capacity again, prolonging business uncertainties. But there are also opportunities which have arisen and this is where forward thinking and innovation become crucial in ensuring that markets across the industry are in the best possible position to bounce straight back.
Airports and airlines which have adopted biometric technology in their airports have already gained an advantage in this sense as they can provide the infrastructure to ensure that travellers are safe upon entering and exiting their journey. This puts them in the best possible position to resume business in the new normal and ensure that travel and tourism can grow and thrive again.
* The writer is CEO of Vision-Box, a multinational technology company headquartered in Lisbon, Portugal