Speaker Interviews

Discover more about the topics and technologies to be discussed at this year's conference, via a series of exclusive interviews with a selection of our expert speakers.


Identity management at TSA

Jason Lim, identity management capability manager, Transportation Security Administration, talks about biometric technology and how it can be used to great effect in airports

Describe your presentation.

With rising air travel volumes, evolving security threats and operational constraints, TSA must continue to adopt innovative technologies to enhance security and efficiency, while improving the passenger experience. The use of biometrics will modernize traveler identity verification and improve aviation security against the threat of bad actors. This session will cover TSA’s approach to identity management as it relates to physical and digital identities. It will also focus on TSA’s latest plans for biometric technology deployments at TSA checkpoints to provide modern, intuitive self-service solutions that reduce the reliance on manual and paper-based authentication.

What are the TSA’s latest plans involving biometric deployments at checkpoints – what technology will underpin its use, at how many checkpoints, at what cost and by when?

Currently, TSA is exploring solutions using 1:1 (one to one) facial matching and 1:n (one to many) facial recognition to enhance biometrics capabilities at the checkpoint. TSA is conducting pilots in the near term to determine performance requirements, and future technology deployment plans will be dependent on when the technology is ready for widespread use.

For the general traveler (non-Trusted Traveler) population, TSA is testing 1:1 facial matching capabilities to verify a passenger’s identity at TSA checkpoints. The solution compares a live image capture of a subject (i.e. the passenger) against a single record (e.g. his/her passport or ID photo) locally at the checkpoint.

For this solution, we are leveraging Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) machines – which validate the authenticity of a passenger’s identity document and/or boarding pass – and enhancing it with a local camera and facial matcher (CAT + Camera). The device will scan the tendered passport/photo ID and compare the passenger’s facial image on his or her identity documents with the passenger’s live facial image captured by the CAT + Camera device.

For the Trusted Traveler population (TSA Pre✓ Application Program and CBP Global Entry Program), TSA is testing 1:n (one to many) facial recognition capabilities to verify a passenger’s identity at TSA checkpoints. This solution compares a live image capture against a number (n) of records in a reference database of enrolled populations.

Behind this solution, we are utilizing Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) facial recognition technology, the Traveler Verification System (TVS), to compare a passenger’s live image against a gallery of pre-staged enrolled reference photos (i.e. passenger images submitted to government).

Once the technology is ready, we expect to roll out biometric deployments for the Trusted Traveler populations (TSA Pre✓ and CBP Global Entry) first and then potentially expand to standard screening lanes. The costs associated with deployments are undetermined at this time.

Where would you like to see further improvements in the capabilities of biometric technology currently available?

TSA is constantly exploring ways to develop technologies that enhance security measures and improve the passenger experience. TSA recognizes that high biometric accuracy rates are essential to providing passengers with the increased convenience of using biometrics technologies. Usable solutions that take human factors and TSA performance into consideration can help yield better system performance. We would also welcome improved passenger user interfaces (UI) that clearly present and convey language and/or visuals for the required action for a wide range of demographic groups (e.g. among speakers of different languages, ages, disabilities, etc.).

Do you have any data on how the TSA’s new identify management procedures are having a positive impact on throughput (efficiency)?

Given the diversity of airports across the USA, the operational placement and use of a fully integrated biometric solution will vary from facility to facility. The operational efficiencies may be different depending on airport facility layouts, sizes, checkpoint lane counts and traveler volumes. We do not have data at this point, but we are continuing to identify requirements related to procedures, workforce training, checkpoint security and other dependencies to positively impact throughput on a wider, uniform scale.

Describe your ideal identify verification experience – and what are the current hurdles to such a scenario?

A superior identity verification experience is centered around the user experience (the passenger) and TSOs (TSA operators). When it comes to air travel, passengers are curious about new ways to streamline their experience. Biometrics capabilities have great potential to provide both operational efficiency and security effectiveness while also enhancing the travel experience for passengers.

For the passenger and TSOs, I imagine a modernized, secure approach to combat the rising volume of air travel. The goal is to streamline the air travel process from reservation to destination, while protecting privacy and security for the traveling public. Biometric solutions must be highly usable for passengers and operators, and biometric capabilities must be able to adapt to an ever-evolving security environment. That is why we are working with partners across government to navigate some of these questions and ultimately develop an approach that embraces standards, current and evolving infrastructure, and innovations.

TSA’s Jason Lim will give his presentation, ‘Identity management at TSA’, as part of the Aviation Security, Border Control & Facilitation stream at Passenger Terminal CONFERENCE 2020.

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