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| Roding, Germany

Mobile biometric app a game changer in travel



With social distancing likely to continue for months, a mobile biometric app could keep passengers passing safely through airports. 

Despite challenging times that the air transport industry is now facing, many airports were already operating at full capacity before the Coronavirus. When the global economy ramps up after the outbreak, passenger numbers are likely to climb again. The current respite and social distancing that will be needed should be a time when airports think carefully about passenger flows.

“The ultimate goal for any airport is to make the experience as hassle-free as possible. Balancing the security and the seamless movement of travellers,” explains Matthias Karl Koehler, Vice President TECURITY at Mühlbauer, a global leader in biometric identification and border management systems.

“Managing passengers in a smart and reliable way, with little disturbance, easy ID and boarding checks are crucial. Currently, there are bottlenecks at passport control and at checkpoints; with Coronavirus still looming large, people in close proximity could be an issue.”

Airports around the world from Dubai to Amsterdam-Schiphol have set up pilot systems to streamline passenger flow. These approaches have relied on centralised biometric databases of pre-registered travellers. They are based on biometric self-boarding systems, which then utilise facial recognition technology. Video surveillance at touch points inside the airport has also been used.

“This has allowed airport authorities to track passenger movements in a detailed, yet very privacy-invasive manner. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which requires citizen consent when it comes to processing personal data has set a new precedent. Observing passengers and scanning a centralised database for facial images is no longer possible,” details Koehler, whose company has provided comprehensive biometric solutions on a global scale from Argentina to Mozambique, Fiji to Switzerland.

Currently, biometric documents such as ePassports, commonly used in the EU and elsewhere, require digital reading devices that access information on a contactless chip. This is used to compare and verify the document and its holder. These work at stationary machines set up at checkpoints in the airport, these same spots are also where travellers congregate.

“In the current climate it would be much better if reading devices were mobile, creating better traveller flow and distancing within the airport. This is why Mühlbauer has developed systems for the mobile verification of ePassports. These solutions include applications which can be used on a smartphone to easily check electronic travel documents,” says Koehler.

“The so-called MB STEEL READER MOBILE app verifies electronic and physical security features such as the visible image, as well as the infrared and ultraviolet images of the document. It can compare the travel document’s holder-page information with the data stored on the chip, but also the document data and corresponding records in a database. It is a game changer.”

The app can be used anytime and anywhere inside an airport’s security area without disturbing passenger flow. This will be essential as travellers begin to return to airports after the Coronavirus outbreak.

The ePassport continues to be the digitalised anchor of trust, since it holds the traveller’s data. Mühlbauer’s certified mobile application then accesses the data in the passport’s contactless chip and transfers it to the trusted storage of the mobile device. A centralised or decentralised face verification proves that the document belongs to the user. Interfaces to external services allow further personal data to be checked. All data is stored temporarily, therefore it’s compliant with EU data regulations.

“The application can also be used on standard mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. High-priced reading equipment or large stationary inspection counters are no longer needed. Airports will be able to utilise space more efficiently and effectively,” says Koehler.

“This is just the start. This digital tokenised system can be enriched over time. We could move to a real wallet containing ID and travel documents, tickets, reservations, vouchers, boarding passes and other useful data. It could even be used by officials as a new type of mobile ID. The app also contains all the data elements of an ePassport. There are endless possibilities.”


Press Contact:

Lara Schmaus

Phone: +49 9461 952 – 1579

Email: Lara.Schmaus@muehlbauer.de


Please note:

This article was published in the RACONTEUR'S "Future of Authentication" supplement which was published in THE TIMES and THE SUNDAY TIMES in May 2020.


To read the entire report, please click on the following link: https://www.raconteur.net/authentication-2020