Airport kiosks could one day use facial recognition software

What’s impossible to lose, easy to find and virtually unhackable? Your face, of course (with one notable exception). Your body is the one thing that you take everywhere. It’s the easiest thing to pack, it never falls out of your back pocket when you go to the bathroom, and it most certainly doesn’t run out of batteries right as you board the plane!

Clearly, identity validation is a crucial capability across the travel journey. Whether it’s at check-in, when you drop your bags or at the gate, there are often multiple ID checkpoints. As part of its continuous cycle of testing and deploying prototypes in travel, the Sabre Labs team has reinvented the way we interact with our own identifications.

The check-in of the future

Called simply the Facial Recognition prototype, the technology is designed as a proof-of-concept for using a traveler’s face as a biometric ID. The pilot use cases are for when travelers check-in at either an airport kiosk or within an airline’s branded app on a tablet.

Labs’ Hannah Howell sees the advantages extending beyond just convenience: there is time saved for all travelers across the travel journey:

A person always has their face with them, and it’s always convenient. Using facial recognition at an airport check-in kiosk can potentially save time that would otherwise be spent entering a record ID or destination information. Facial recognition can also be useful at other points in travel, such as when a passenger is boarding a plane or checking into a hotel.

In order to increase accuracy, other biometric identifiers are in use or under experimentation: for example, a traveler’s fingerprints, voice patterns, iris patterns, gait, and ear shape, among others.

Future authentication systems are likely to analyze multiple biometric factors to help optimize security and convenience for businesses and travelers alike. Every person has a unique set of biometric identifiers which, taken together, are virtually impossible to spoof.

Of course, this is not an attempt for the cyborgs to take over the airport experience. Biometrics, such as fingerprints, are now commonplace security tools. And facial recognition software is already deployed across the world to match transiting passengers with databases of known individuals. In that use, facial recognition technology has no active impact on the traveler experience. Introducing it to the traveler experience allows for greater benefit beyond security.

In its current use for security, facial recognition technology has no active impact on the traveler experience. While we all want to be safe while traveling, it would be nice to benefit from surveillance culture in other ways. Introducing it to the traveler experience allows for greater benefit beyond security. And just like with biometrics collected at immigration stations, the protection of data continues to be essential.

Now, keep your face on and check-in to the future!