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Security

Heathrow trials digital ID with a difference

18 April 2019
A trial in the UK explores the benefits of creating a digital ID before travelling to the airport. Source: Getty Images

An ongoing trial at Heathrow Airport is highlighting the benefits that digital identity can bring to passenger convenience and airport operational efficiency, according to London-based technology developer YOTI.

The trial creates a digital identity before travelling. “We’ve proven that the concept of using a digital identity, externally or upstream of the airport to create a usable token, works,” said Gavin Watts, YOTI’s head of transport. “As far as we’re aware, this has not been done before, as despite there being trials ongoing around the world where you can use your face to move though an airport, these all require an active biometric experience on arrival.”

In the first stage of the YOTI trial, staff used their digital identities to enter and exit their office. After further internal development, the trial moved to Heathrow, where industry stakeholders were given the opportunity to use biometrics across four touchpoints: bag drop, check-in, ticket presentation and security, and boarding. According to Watts, the “next phase with Heathrow, which will commence this month [April], will be to write a white paper explaining how we can put this in a live environment for paying passengers”.

The YOTI offering at Heathrow still has some way to go before achieving full single-token status, largely reflecting demands from the airport operator for precision. Although YOTI is already in service with the Government of Jersey and the Improvement Service in Scotland to deliver services such as online child benefit and tax returns, accuracy and reliability are far more important in the aviation industry. “When people move across a border, the risk of bad actors is increased. Therefore, there is an added level of security,” Watts noted.

To prevent false positives, passengers using the YOTI solution would still have to show boarding passes at the first touchpoint. Watts explained that at this stage, the system “sends a message to the server to say that the boarding pass is here, and to return the associated image.

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