Research Projects

Best Practices for Implementing Effective Airport Biometrics - A Primer In Reserve

Air traveler volume is rising year over year, placing strain on airport facilities' ability to process passengers efficiently and effectively in an operational footprint constrained by long-term capital investments. Additionally, airports must continuously mitigate against the risk posed by the "insider threat." Biometrics (e.g. fingerprint, facial, iris recognition) have the potential to mitigate these risks, capture value, and enhance the air travel experience for passengers and aviation workers alike. Airport authorities require additional guidance and technical vision to successfully assess and implement these capabilities on their own and/or in concert with aviation security and border control regulators. Airport leaders will significantly benefit from a comprehensive, repeatable methodology to assess the business case for and establish an approach to implementing biometric capabilities in their facilities.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Airports in the U.S. and around the globe are weighing whether to embrace biometric capabilities for passenger and/or employee facing applications. Some airports and airlines have already made the decision to invest and be "first to market." Others are opting to wait and be "fast followers" should a clearer business case emerge for airport biometrics. The decision to adopt biometric capabilities in the aviation context is dauntingly complex and multi-faceted (technical, financial, programmatic, etc.). Today, airport authorities lack a comprehensive, repeatable methodology for assessing whether biometrics are right for their facilities. How best to assess the business case for biometrics? Airports must be able to identify and measure the key drivers of potential return on biometric investment. Furthermore, when a business case emerges, airport leaders need a set of best practices for planning such a complex implementation. Biometrics will have significant impacts across all dimensions – people, process, technology, and infrastructure – of the airport business. Every airport is unique, but the challenges and opportunities airport leaders are faced with when it comes to biometrics may have more in common than not.
These considerations are taking place against the backdrop of rapid socio-technical change. Biometric applications are becoming increasingly commonplace in the consumer market and the performance of the core technology is increasing dramatically through the use of machine learning. Legislators and regulators are evaluating whether and how to tackle the unique privacy issues raised by biometrics. Meanwhile, aviation and border security organizations are investing significant resources into developing biometric capabilities to modernize their missions. In the last year alone, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has made significant strides towards implementing facial recognition for aviation passengers entering or existing the United States, executed pilots at over two dozen airports and beginning a full-scale rollout to the top twenty airports by international traveler volume in the coming years. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is following suit by collaborating with CBP in the field and recently released a strategic Biometric Roadmap in October 2018 that defines the organization's vision for biometric passenger screening at the security checkpoint. It also hints of future efforts to explore biometrics for other populations (e.g. known crew members, aviation workers). While CBP and TSA are seemingly taking the lead on biometrics in the U.S. context, robust partnership between the public sector, airports, and other aviation industry stakeholders is critical for the successful implementation of such capabilities.
Airport authorities will benefit from a repeatable methodology and toolkit of best practices to engage security regulators, vendors, integrators, and the end users (passengers and/or employees) to assess and capture added value from any on-going or future biometric investments. While the general concept of a biometrically-enabled travel vision is widely socialized in the aviation industry, a practical and holistic approach for achieving it is lacking. This leaves airport authorities and stakeholders planning biometric efforts in a silo which puts airports at a disadvantage vis a vis the biometric vendor(s) who benefit from a wide variety of experiences implementing across multiple sites and geographies. Serving as a jumping off point for planning, the results of this research can help drive cost savings by streamlining up-front scoping, reducing re-work, and establishing requirements that can be incorporated into other capital development projects. Additionally, the guidance derived from this research will airports help mitigate vendor lock-in, enable interoperability (e.g. with regulators and airlines), and ensure a trusted, intuitive user experience at various touchpoints across the airport ecosystem.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

The recommended approach for executing this research effort includes:
• Project planning and scoping
• Literature reviews and current state analysis
• Subject matter exert interviews with public sector entities (e.g. CBP, TSA, UK Home Office, CATSA, etc.), private sector biometric vendors/integrators (e.g. SITA, VisionBox, NEC, CLEAR, etc.), and airports in the U.S. and abroad (e.g. LHR, AMS).
• Journey-mapping to identify a comprehensive set of potential biometric touchpoints throughout the airport environment
• Developing a set of recommendations, notional architectures, and high-level requirements to support the implementation of biometric capabilities in the airport environment

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

Total Labor Cost: $425,000

Travel: $25,000 (assuming 4-5 airport site visits for observation and airport authority/stakeholder meetings to observe biometric operations)

This assumes the following project breakdown of funding/time (approximate):
• 5% Project Planning
• 15% Literature Review
• 40% Research
• 30% Synthesis
• 10% Reviews, Updates, Finalization

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

While there has been mention of biometrics in numerous other publications, ACRP has not published a biometric-specific research paper to-date. This topic is particularly timely as biometric capabilities are being tested at airports across the globe, and implementation of biometric capabilities is no longer an "if" but a "when". While there exists hundreds of articles on existing efforts, and even some guidance produced by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the aviation industry lacks a comprehensive, un-biased primer to guide airports through implementation of biometric capabilities, including establishing a biometric platform that allows their stakeholders across the airport ecosystem to gain benefit from the investment. Selected publications are noted below, and should be considered when developing this primer, though alone they do not offer the type of guidance an airport requires to undertake this effort.

• IATA OneID Concept Overview:
• TSA Biometrics Roadmap:
• CBP Traveler Verification Service Privacy Assessment (includes TVS background)
• Biometric background and current efforts in the air environment:
• Biometrics in the Travel Industry:

Idea No. 202