What does Idemia specialize in?
Idemia is a leader in augmented identity. We strive to make people’s everyday lives safer and easier and that is what we offer border police, airport operators and airlines. We allow travelers to interact securely with airport operators or border authorities while minimizing the controls they need to perform via biometrics and data analysis. Our aim is to deliver a quick and user-friendly passenger experience with the right balance between security and convenience.
What is the most important part of securing air travel?
The global number of air passengers is expected to double by 2037, according to IATA’s figures. Meanwhile, security controls in some parts of the world are expected to increase (e.g. a forthcoming Entry/Exit system in the Schengen zone). So airlines face a conundrum: they seek to boost passenger numbers while having to perform additional controls that will slow passenger processing. Included in the expected passenger increase will be some suspicious or illegal passengers crossing borders via airports. To meet this challenge, biometric data – including face, fingerprint and iris – coupled with high-tech and interoperable back-office systems, is the most efficient way to tackle illegal immigration and pinpoint a person of interest, while delivering a seamless experience for all passengers. Biometrics-based checks that can be performed locally can be combined with risk analysis solutions that will allow authorities to detect any potentially suspicious persons before they reach their destination.
How do biometrics help secure air travel?
Biometrics refers to all processes used to recognize, authenticate and identify persons based on certain physical or behavioral characteristics. These processes are universal, so everybody can apply them, and the collected biometric data is unique, invariable, recordable and measurable to enable comparisons. Idemia specializes in the top three biometric fields, namely fingerprint, face and iris recognition. These three are especially reliable and effective. With biometrics we can identify people – that is, match personal biometric data from a vast database, and authenticate it. This means we verify that a given person’s biometric data is identical to that of the passport holder.
Governments concerned about security at their airports opt for biometrics to accelerate passenger flows while identifying potential persons of interest. We have 40 years’ experience in biometrics and manage over five billion biometric records worldwide. We develop our own algorithms for fingerprint, face and iris recognition, and installed the first two-step biometric automated border control worldwide based on facial recognition, under the banner of the SmartGate program in Australia and New Zealand. We are also the only company in the world to implement a multi-biometric Entry/Exit solution as part of the eBorders program in the UAE, covering face, iris and fingerprint data.
Biometrics is definitely the surest way to secure borders; that’s why more than 30 countries have turned to us for border-control solutions. At Idemia we have reached a level of accuracy where we can capture and manage biometrics so as to detect any attempted identity fraud with a very high level of confidence. Our controls, which involve identification via huge volume databases, work with a response time that satisfies border flow requirements, where travelers cannot wait long.
Tell us about one of your recent installations. What did you provide and what results did the airport see?
Recently we rolled out face and iris recognition technology in Abu Dhabi and Dubai International Airports, and installed an end-to-end biometric system at Changi Airport, which is the busiest hub in Asia. These systems support airport security while easing passengers’ journeys through controls.
Changi Airport Group has undergone the first fully fledged, operational implementation of the One ID concept pushed by IATA, which seeks to offer an end-to-end passenger experience that is seamless, efficient and secure. Passengers can be identified on arrival at the airport via their passports, together with their biometric data. Biometrics then comes into play at every point along their path: going airside, crossing the border and boarding the plane. Our biometric algorithms provide for instant data capture and accurate passenger identity matching so that they reach the boarding lounge in under 10 minutes from arriving at the first control. Indeed, they may not even realize that control systems are interacting with the airport or the government at each point, and they enjoy a seamless experience. A system links each step and delivers both convenience and transparency in terms of privacy.
How can biometric data be kept secure and hacker-proof?
Passengers’ biometric and biographical data have to be handled with the utmost care to fight fraud, pursuant to latest legislation such as the EU GDPR. Data protection, retrieval, encryption, storage, consistency, anticipation and prevention are key to developing responsible biometric data management practices. We work closely with IATA. We also need access to biometric data for higher numbers of people, including those who do not want to have their biometrics permanently held in a database. That is why we have developed and successfully trialled a biometric boarding pass solution with Air France. Through a secure process, we can issue a boarding pass with a secure QR code that contains passenger biometrics. The QR code is encrypted so that nobody can retrieve the biometric data. It is very important to handle data in this way so that passengers stay in control of their data while still giving them a smooth journey through the airport.
What do you think biometric security will look like in 10 years’ time?
The next few years will usher in more multi-biometric identification solutions. While a combination of multiple sources of biometrics enhances security, biometric data is arguably one of the most sensitive types of data around. What’s more, the modern trend to hold data in the cloud increasingly includes the most sensitive data. The next decade will be all about developing ways to deliver watertight cybersecurity to safeguard biometric data – in the cloud or elsewhere, processed or shared. People will enjoy convenient services and security simultaneously and feel confident in sharing their data in various ways, such as secure multiparty computation. This means there is no one processor of all data, but rather multiple processors.
Another way to secure data is verifiable computing, a trend that will further grow in the next few years. Under verifiable computing, one central entity can outsource data computing to another potentially unknown and untested supplier, while maintaining verifiable results. Last but not least, in 2020 we will see a movement toward standardizing homomorphic encryption on a worldwide level. With this last step, end-to-end data privacy can be achieved, given that at no stage is data exposed without protection.