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13 - 15 May 2025

Using Biometric Facial Recognition as Part of the Future of Airport Technology

Experts have invested a lot to provide state-of-the-art capabilities in ensuring the bright future of airport technology. New equipment development is continuous to facilitate daily passenger turnaround. While safety has always been a major concern, it has intensified with Covid-19 coming onto the global scene. With or without the pandemic, there is no stopping the aviation sector from levelling up its capabilities. One of the trends that are currently on rollout and will transcend further in the next years to come in the industry is biometric facial recognition.

In this article

What Is Biometric Facial Recognition?

Facial recognition is a cutting-edge system that uses biometrics to measure and match the distinct physical characteristics of an individual for authentication or identification purposes. It uses a camera and facial recognition software that detects faces and matches them into a database of information. This type of technology is often used for security and law enforcement, thus making it an integral part of the future of airport technology.

Where It All Began

Since the 1960s, some experts have made attempts to make facial recognition work on computers. Further progress was seen in the late 1980s wherein the earliest instances of automatic facial recognition were recorded. Testing was made from the 1990s up to the 2000s mainly for law enforcement agencies and the U.S. government. Facial recognition was eventually implemented on Facebook in 2010 and on iPhone X in 2017.

Today, the uses of biometric facial recognition are becoming more widespread. It ensures a smooth experience for crowds in stadiums, mega-events, and transport hubs. The technology is used for marketing purposes, making way for sending targeted ads to consumers. It helps law enforcement agencies track down suspects or missing persons. And one of its most common applications is on smartphones, enabling users to unlock their devices easily.

Facial Recognition at Airports

As part of the promising future of airport technology, experts have included the usage of biometric facial recognition in airport processes. In the USA, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) worked with airlines in 2019 to implement biometric face scanners in domestic airports in 2019. Collins Aerospace and JetBlue also followed the same path to enhance passenger boarding experience. Facial recognition was also eventually introduced in several airlines in the Asia-Pacific.

The Middle East is also no exception to this advancement. Dubai lives up to its identity of being the leading smart city in the Middle East with the implementation of face and iris recognition software in its airports. The ‘Smart Tunnel’ in Dubai Airports provides passengers with a smart travelling experience. Passengers simply pass on a tunnel system allowing them to complete passport control procedures within a few seconds. This eliminates the need for passengers to go through passport stamping or show other documents just for proof of identity.

Saudi Arabia also has plans of introducing an iris recognition biometric system not only in airports but also in its land and sea transport methods to ensure the nation’s safety. Airport digitalization is the focus of Bahrain International Airport. As part of its efforts in creating a smooth passenger journey, the management is also in the works of including an intelligent approach to verifying passengers using biometrics.

Some Concerns About Facial Recognition

While the future of the global facial recognition sector is expected to continuously grow in the next years, some people are still sceptical about the said advancement. The biggest concern is security. Hackers can get into databases and use each piece of information for fraud or to harass victims. Some people are concerned that the said technology is not just being used for security but also in knowing the activities of a person. For instance, one US firm is reported to using a face-scanning algorithm in finalizing its hiring decisions. Additionally, no matter how hi-tech a system is, there is still a possibility that it may fail at some point. Factors such as light or shade can affect the image captured in a facial recognition system, thus, may produce inaccurate results.

But It Has Benefits

More and more people devote their lives to developing technologies to contribute to a better and more convenient way of living. There may be a few concerns with facial recognition technology, but still, it comes with several benefits. Security is a major concern, but it is also one of the biggest benefits of this type of innovation. Biometric facial recognition can accurately identify the identity of passengers the moment they step into the airport. It verifies passport information and visas and helps in determining whether the passengers are aboard the correct plane. It provides a harmonious passenger experience and reduces any delays. Plus, it alleviates the concern of contracting an illness, most especially since we are still dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak.

The biometric facial recognition system is here to stay, and more and more airlines have been adopting this innovation. Concerns will always be present, but these are overcome by the technology's benefits. Biometrics minimizes the need to go through long lines and possible travel delays. Its efficient verification capabilities also enhance airline security. With the brilliant application of facial recognition, we can be optimistic about the future of airport technology and the improved travel experience it can deliver.

Interested in learning more about biometric facial recognition and other airport innovations? Don’t miss the world’s largest annual airport event, The Airport Show. This event will be on 9 - 11 May 2023 at Dubai World Trade Centre. Sign up now to learn more about the exciting future of airport technology!

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