Facial Recognition Technology Coming to Indian Airports

 - October 10, 2018, 11:22 AM

As ailing Indian airlines struggle to cope with delays at congested airports, the ministry of civil aviation hopes a recently released policy on biometric digital processing of passengers at airports will bring reprieve to carriers as passenger-clearing processes get faster. The system, dubbed “Digi Yatra” (Digital Journey), does away with the need to show a boarding pass or identification at multiple checkpoints once a traveler completes a one-time registration. The system is not mandatory.

“Leveraging technology is the only solution to meet such challenging requirements,” said R.N Choubey, secretary of India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation.  

The policy envisions a biometric facial recognition-led “ecosystem” for digital processing of passengers at airports such as Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru, scheduled for implementation by February 2019. Jet Airways, Air Asia, and SpiceJet passengers would become the first users. Hyderabad International Airport will also launch the system in the first quarter of 2019, followed by five smaller airports in April.

Kempegowda Airport will use facial recognition as the screening process for passengers to board flights and move across different sections of the airport. The ministry has hired Portugal’s Vision-Box to provide the biometric self-boarding technology. Vision-Box designs, develops, and implements integrated, digital identity management methods. With increased congestion in the air and in terminal buildings, the flow of people will reduce cost of operations as turnarounds get faster and “we can perhaps get an extra flight in during prime time when slots are unavailable in Mumbai and Delhi,” Vishok Mansingh, CEO of India’s Trujet airline told AIN. He added that no need to physically check boarding passes and less human intervention will not only reduce lines, but it could also bring down the direct cost of manpower of airlines and security personnel at airports.

IT software provider SITA expressed confidence that the program will improve the flow of passengers through airports across India and eased capacity constraints across the country. “We have seen the positive impact of biometric identity management wherever we have deployed our Smart Path solution across airports in the Middle East; Brisbane, Australia, and the U.S.,” Maneesh Jaikrishna, SITA vice president for the Indian subcontinent and eastern/southern Africa, told AIN. Jaikrishina pointed to the successful implementation of the system at Orlando Airport, with the help of British Airways and the U.S. Customs & Border Patrol. “We showed how we could board international flights with 240 passengers in around 10 minutes,” he said. “Similarly, in India we can leverage the Digi Yatra initiative to make this country the most efficient travel system anywhere in the world.”

Meanwhile, experts expect facial recognition also to improve security because it virtually removes the threat of counterfeit identity cards. “This is expected to help tighten airport security and also enhance travel experience of passengers,” concluded Indian minister for civil aviation Suresh Prabhu.