The airport travel experience has remained constant for a LONG time. For many of us, words like “unpredictable,” “slow,” and “frustrating” immediately come to mind. I spend a lot of time in airports, and can personally affirm that the international pursuit of innovation within the aviation industry could not be more obvious or focused than it is right now.
Your usual experience: arrive at the airport, wait in a line to get your ticket, wait in a line for security, then wait in a line to board your plane—and until just a few years ago, this was generally the case. However, as other fields have proven the advantages of certain technologies, applications to and acceptance by commercial aviation has become more and more apparent. Biometric solutions have especially begun revolutionizing the airport experience for all stakeholders involved – travelers, airlines, airport operations, vendors, government, and law enforcement.
About five years ago, biometrics did the same for the mobile device industry—and before that, fingerprints were only associated with law enforcement. Today, fingerprints have become ubiquitous as a quick and easy replacement for our passwords, allowing us to unlock everything from our phones to our bank accounts, with a single press. The ease of use has made life a lot simpler for users, and a lot more secure for providers.
That same convenience and security is now being brought to the airport environment, by leveraging all the technological innovations that have been produced over the last ten years.
In fact, at the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) Airport Innovation Forum this year, our session was “Know Your Customer: Leveraging Personalization and Innovation in the Passenger Experience”, and focused on how airports around the world are engaging with new and innovative solutions that bring the real benefits of self-service and automation to modernize the airport experience for everyone.
During the 2019 AAAE Airport Innovation forum in Chicago, many speakers got up on stage to show how technology is revolutionizing the airport. From self-driving vehicles to optimization of back office operations, to facial recognition and analytics that reduce wait times using dynamic content displays, a digital transformation in the aviation environment is definitely under way. And an important priority has universally taken shape: how to make travelers safer and the customer experience more convenient throughout the aviation journey—everything from check-in, bag-checks and security to airport shopping.
Security is, of course, of the utmost importance, and rightly so–even though it often has a negative impact on the traveler experience. We know the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are working daily (and nightly!) to keep our skies safe, which is why biometrics is so important to the security process. Having the ability to instantly verify that secure documents are valid and do match the identity and confirmed reservation of the traveler ensures that only vetted passengers arrive on the other side of that security line. Biometric security enhancements actually serve a dual purpose; not only are biometrics more accurate at screening individuals, they also move lines along faster. By bringing automation to necessary processes–that can then be optimized and become more predictable, this creates a better airport experience for everyone.
With the ability to predict wait times, passengers are able to spend more time doing what they choose, from relaxing in the lounge, to visiting duty-free shops (as biometrics also lets you “pay with your face”!).
Big change cannot be driven solely by the technology, though, which means leadership events like the AAAE Airport Innovation Forum are extremely important. More collaboration amongst industry stakeholders is critical to the success of the digital revolution in commercial aviation, for real change that is predicated on thoughtful policy and implementation, careful execution, and effective change management.
This paradigm shift is being driven by a recent realization by all stakeholders that, in fact, there is a common goal – digital transformation, for a better customer experience, improved commerce, cost and time savings, optimized security and smoother airport operations.
Next time you’re at the airport, think about how biometrics is, or could be, reducing the burden on airport operations, and making your life more secure.
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