The government recently unveiled the DigiYatra initiative, which will allow passengers to zip through airports with just a facial scan. Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru along with the Hyderabad airport, will be the first to implement it. In an email interview, Hari Marar, the CEO & MD of Bangalore International Airport Ltd., explains the various facets of the technology.
How will this technology benefit different stakeholders?
The biometric technology will identify passengers by their faces as they move across the airport, avoiding stops and repeated presentation of boarding passes, passports and other documents. Security largely depends on bona fide passengers, and biometric screening provides exactly that – with minimal human intervention.
It will benefit airlines by enabling a faster check-in and boarding. The first implementation milestone of DigiYatra at the Bangalore airport will be completed in the first quarter of 2019, with Jet Airways, Air Asia and SpiceJet passengers as the first users.
How will the different access points be integrated?
A passenger creates a DigiYatra ID on the DigiYatra Central Identity Management platform. All airlines, online travel agents, etc., will provide this facility to create a DigiYatra ID, which is entered into the ticket and the booking is completed.
At an airport registration kiosk, the passenger enrols his/ her face for the first time when the DigiYatra ID is used. This biometric enrollment is valid for the lifetime of the passenger.
After this enrolment, the passenger proceeds to the entry gates. At the entry gate, the passenger scans his/ her boarding pass/ e-ticket barcode and his/ her face is captured by the camera. The PNR is translated to the DigiYatra ID and the face and the DigiYatra ID are sent to the DigiYatra Platform for verification.
On positive verification, the e-gate opens and a passenger dataset, with the face biometric and the PNR, is created for the airport process checkpoints. The passenger dataset is used to identify the passenger at all other checkpoints such as check-in counter, baggage drop, security check, boarding gate, etc.
The verification is completed in under 5 seconds at every checkpoint – right up to the boarding gate – completing the process in 10 minutes or less, against the average time of 25 minutes now.
What kind of challenges do you anticipate?
A big task ahead of us will be to ensure that our passengers are able to use the DigiYatra process. For this, BIAL will ensure that all passenger-facing staff are trained to support passengers.
How will BIAL ensure that privacy of passengers is not hampered?
The DigiYatra ID is not stored in the barcode of the ticket or the boarding pass. All PNR data that contains the DigiYatra ID is shared by the airline with the airport over a secure link. The data will be temporarily stored at the airport and will be used only for the purpose of the identification of a passenger until he/ she completes boarding. One hour after take-off of a particular flight, all facial biometric data will be purged from the local system to ensure data protection and privacy.