A new facial recognition system at Washington Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will replace boarding passes for all international flights by the end of the year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority announced Sept. 6.
The biometric screening system, known as veriScan, is set to increase both convenience and security, according to a Sept. 6 MWAA news release. All international passengers will be required to stand in front of an iPad for a facial scan rather than have their boarding passes checked by hand.
Dulles will join airports in major cities around the country like Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego and Houston in using facial recognition technology.
Customs and Border Protection will cross-reference the live photos of travellers with a collection of photos gathered from other government databases of that traveller, CBP said in a Sept. 6 news release.
“CBP uses airline manifest data to retrieve existing traveler photographs from government databases, including passports and visas, to build a photo gallery of travelers who are expected to arrive and depart the United States,” the release said. “CBP then compares the ‘live’ photographs of travelers taken with those that are already on file in DHS holdings. No new data is required.”
Christina Saull, corporate communications manager at MWAA, said the technology, which was developed in-house at Dulles International Airport, is continuously evolving to become more effective and passenger-friendly.
“It’s something that we will continue to see evolve. There could be a future version of this which enables you not to have a boarding pass,” Saull said in an interview with The Hoya. “The basis of this technology certainly can enhance passengers’ experience as our end goal. As an airport, it’s to ensure that our passengers are having the best experience possible as they’re traveling through with us, and if our technology can play a role in that, we’re very happy to do that.”
The biometric facial recognitions system will send encrypted photos of the passengers to the CBP Traveler Verification Service, an online program that stores traveller information that will be used to verify each passenger’s identity, according to a Sept. 6 news release from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. The agency’s database will then analyze the real-time photo for similarities with past portraits of the passenger, according to The Washington Post.
CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan highlighted how facial recognition technology will improve both efficiency and security for international flights in the unveiling of the technology.
“CBP and our airport and airlines partners are redefining travel by using biometric technology to add convenience, efficiency and security to international arrivals and departures,” McAleenan told The Washington Post.
The system can be quickly integrated into all major U.S. airports with little challenge or delay because it is easy to install and only requires a short training session, according to the MWAA.
“The veriScan system is uses battery-powered, Wi-Fi / cellular connected tablets that are portable and interchangeable among gates. Because of this, veriScan is easy to install, requiring only a 30-minute training before it can be used by airline gate agents, and costs one-tenth that of other commercially available solutions,” the MWAA news release said.
MWAA President and CEO Jack Potter said he is hopeful that the new technology will increase airport security.
“In addition to helping meet the congressional mandate, we hope this technology becomes a useful and cost-effective tool for airports and airlines that process the growing number of travelers entering and leaving the United States,” Potter said in a CBP statement.
The biometric system will also accelerate the entry and exit processes, as the photo verification takes less than two seconds. In the event the system malfunctions, gate agents can manually clear a passenger to the gate.