High Tech Airport Security Initiative Launched at Davos World Economic Forum

by Richard D'Ambrosio
High Tech Airport Security Initiative Launched at Davos World Economic Forum

Photo: Drop of Light/Shutterstock.com


Travel companies and various government agencies are merging efforts to develop technology solutions that will enable the industry to protect travelers and facilitate the rapid global growth already straining its infrastructure.

Called “The Known Traveler Digital Identity system,” a proof of concept pilot project for a restricted group of travelers between Canada and the Netherlands is being designed for as early as this year, leveraging digital technologies such as advanced biometrics, cryptography and “distributed ledger technologies.”

“By 2020, The Known Traveler Digital Identity concept should be … made available to a wide audience,” the entities said in a report.

The system was announced in Davos this week, and is led by a number of industry suppliers, government authorities and associations that are a part of the World Economic Forum's Security in Travel Project. Implementation dates for the Canada-Netherlands concept pilot were not disclosed.

"Leveraging new technological advancements can support risk-based approaches to public safety and security, making air travel more efficient while improving the travel experience" said Canada Minister of Transport Marc Garneau.

International travel security policies are outdated
“Technology has drastically changed most aspects of our daily lives, yet international travel and the framework of policies that enable it largely look the same as they did 50 years ago,” said Arne Sorenson, Marriott International president and CEO.

“Collaboration with industry partners and customers is needed to construct a new framework to pre-vet legitimate, low-risk travelers. In turn, government agencies can devote more resources to true threats, improving secure and seamless travel, which will allow more people to see the world,” Sorenson said.

Without improvements, the group estimates airlines, airports and hotels are at risk of losing $10 billion due to a reduction in air traffic and inefficiencies throughout the global air system. Travelers and others would lose $20 billion in time and added costs, and there is the risk of $120 billion in expenses as the result of “a major attack,” said a report accompanying the announcement.

According to the report: “The Known Traveler Digital Identity concept will be central to enabling a more secure and seamless traveler journey. It provides the opportunity for law enforcement, immigration and aviation security officials to request and receive verified information from travelers far sooner in their journey. Receiving this earlier allows for a process redesign that shifts authorities towards increased advanced passenger screening and the clearance of low-risk travelers. In turn, officials will have more time to focus their efforts on vetting passengers who are less well known or who raise more concerns.”

Coping with expected growth
“With only limited physical space available for expansion, airports need to look for alternative ways to cope with the expected growth in international travel.”

The group is focusing its efforts around five traveler “pain points” where they feel they can improve the current experience, including: Visa Application and Screening, Booking, Security Screening, Departure Gate and Exit Control, and Arrival and Border Security.

“Beyond automation, the capabilities of advanced technologies such as biometrics and predictive analytics make possible a complete redesign of traveler-screening processes, increasing the ability to screen passengers in advance and clear low-risk travelers at a rate faster than ever before,” the report said.

Entities involved in the project include global brands and associations, including: Accenture, AccorHotels, Amadeus IT Group, AirAsia, Airports Council International (ACI), the Government of Canada, Google, Hilton Worldwide, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Marriott International, NEC Corporation, UK National Crime Agency, US Department of Commerce, US Department of Homeland Security, Visa, and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

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