Iris biometrics – Living passport for airport access control

The increasing demand of air traveling across countries and continents, together with the high expectation of customers in terms of services and security have put pressure to maintain the air transportation infrastructures. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) projects that the global travel will grow 4.1% per year over the next 20 years, from 3.3 billion passengers in 2014 to 7.3 billion in 2034.  It is required that airport operations and processes have to be innovatively improved in order to minimize passengers’ secure threats when using air transportation. Hence, secure access control has gained significant attention to solve the airport operational security/service issues. Biometrics-based access control is one of the innovative automated technology solutions that airport operators are adopting to close these gaps, remain competitive, and breakthrough to the airport experience of the future. Specifically, iris recognition is considered as the most effective biometrics to ensure security and expedite airport operations for both landside and airside application. Iris recognition systems screen travelers at airports and match their identities against the database of terrorists stored in their systems. In the case of a possible attack, the security agencies at the airport receive an alert, thereby mitigating the security risks. This also eliminates the need for displaying passports at security checks.

Iris biometrics – Living passport for airport access control

There are five main different modes in which automated personal identification by iris recognition is used at airports:

  • International arriving passengers can clearly control immigration through iris-automated gates without passport or other identity recognition if they have been enrolled in a preapproved iris database.

  • Departing passengers can receive faster security screening for check-in process if enrolled in an iris database following background checks.

  • Airline crew members can also use iris recognition for controlling access to the secure air-side.

  • Airport employees gain access to restricted areas within airports such as maintenance facilities, baggage handling, and the tarmac through iris recognition.

  • Arriving passengers may be screened against a watch-list database recording the irises of people who are considered as dangerous or expellees from a country.

Access control to these airport-linked sensitive facilities can be further improved by using biometric-based identifiers, especially iris biometric. Iris recognition’s unique capabilities are proven to increase security, speed, and user satisfaction for access control while satisfying compliance requirements and providing a “hands free” airport access control solution. About 28% of airports around the world are using biometric technology as part of their airport security, which allows airports to streamline the screening process using machines that can verify identities by scanning faces, irises, or fingerprints. In 2013, The Journal reported that London Gatwick Airport conducted an experiment with 3,000 British Airways passengers using biometric scanners instead of boarding passes. The machines scanned the irises of the passengers’ eyes when they first checked in, which allowed cameras to identify the travelers at security checkpoints and gates automatically. On the other hands, TechNavio’s analysts forecasted that the Global E-passport and E-visa market which mostly apply biometrics technology to grow at a CAGR of 30.17% over the period 2014-2019. It also states that the security access control including airport access control is one of the most significant factors contributing to the growth of iris biometric in the forecasted period.

In “Iris Biometrics – Global Strategic Business Report 2015: System & Network Access Control – A Robust Market Opportunity in the Offing” report by Research and Markets, it is stated that iris biometric plays bigger role in airport applications among different biometric modalities. Iris recognition will continuously enhance its position as a preeminent biometric for airport access control.