Key Biometrics Initiatives In the United States

US Customs and Border Protection Logo

Experience The Skies reported on June 14, 2017 that Delta Air Lines’ is trialling new biometric technology at Atlanta and New York City area airports. The following is a continuation on other projects being tested or implemented in United States.


Current and Future Biometrics Development

The US Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) has been developing an air travel screening solution based on facial recognition for the past 2 years. It is “committed to delivering a solution at the top Gateway Airports beginning in 2018.”  The solution is cloud-based and expected to match faces to biometric data contained in flight manifests, with the system able to “interface with airlines and other third party providers.” The goal is to retrofit different biometric solutions at eight locations beyond Atlanta. The agency will work with other “air travel partners” to identify ways to integrate technology in the most secured and efficient ways. Here is a list of current biometric projects that are ongoing within United States:


jetBlue Airways

Delta is not the only US based airline looking into biometrics. jetBlue Airways has been working with travel technology company SITA and the CBP on a passive biometrics solution that aims to replace travel documents for flights between Boston’s Logan International Airport (BOS) and Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA). The program is entirely optional and not require the passenger to scan their boarding pass prior to leaving the gate. A manual process still exist if the verification is not conclusive.


jetBlue Biometric Boston To Aruba

jetBlue Biometric Boston To Aruba      Source: jetBlue Airways


Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)

The airport has been using a similar Vision-Box solution to capture both facial information via the VB E-Pass Desktop solution and matching it to individuals’ passport photos. The goal is to perform a risk assessment based on how well the pictures match for incoming traveller or returning US citizens and residents.


Vision-Box APC Kiosks at Washington Dulles International Airport

Vision-Box APC Kiosks at Washington Dulles International Airport Source: Vision-Box


Denver International Airport (DEN)

Starting on June 13, passengers with access to the TSA Pre✓ program can opt-in by providing fingerprint information to the agency. This will allow them to use the scanning technology as part of the automated identity verification process at selected security checkpoints. DEN was picked because it has a high TSA Pre✓ enrolment rate which would allow for a higher test pool.


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We hope you’re as excited as #ThisGuy about innovative screening technology!  He’s one of the technicians setting up the biometric authentication technology (BAT). Besides having a super cool acronym, the technology matches passenger fingerprints to those that have previously been provided when travelers enrolled in #TSAPrecheck. This pilot program is voluntary and all participating passengers will also be subject to the standard ticket document checking process of showing their boarding pass and ID. Bummer, we know… But in the long term, this technology has the potential to eliminate the need for a boarding pass and ID altogether. The pilot starts this week and will take place at one TSA Pre✓® lane at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport #ATL and another at the Denver International Airport #DEN starting this week. TSA will analyze the data collected during the pilot for potential implementation at other U.S. airports in the future.

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Future Is All About Automation

In the future, it is may be mandatory for passengers to provide various forms of biometrics as part of enrolment to the security clearance programs (e.g. CLEAR, TSA Pre✓) and advance entry programs (e.g.NEXUS) which would be used to form a biometric profile.  Passengers will then use this as part of the automated identity verification process for the entire travel journey from check in, security screening and boarding.

This requirement would be extend to the US population since everyone has an e-passport and when biometric technologies have been tested sufficiently. Identify verification automation will reduce lineups, improve efficiency and effectiveness of screening based on a computed risk assessment, eliminating bias in screening and gives passengers more control.

There are no companies in the US that provide an all-in-one solution managing the biometric needs of CBP along with a communication API with airlines and airports. With more testing, CBP can establish key standards that would allow companies to create such solutions. As such, it will take some time before all domestic US airlines and airports deploy complete biometric solutions.