Travel insights from Taylor Coulson, contributing editor of The Compass

Welcome to the Future: Your Face is Now Your Passport

Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and airports themselves have implemented new aviation technology in order to speed up the airport process while improving accessibility for travelers. Here are a variety of exciting technological advances in four airports around the world.

Automated Border Control Gates at Dominican Republic’s International Airport

For travelers from the U.S., Canada, Spain, U.K., and France, an automated border check process has been created as they depart from Dominican Republic’s International Airport. SITA, an IT company that provides IT and telecommunication services for the air transport industry, created the automated immigration technology being utilized at this airport. It went into action in terminal one back in January 2018 and in July 2018, the technology was deployed in terminal two.

Automated gates features advanced biometric technologies that capture life facial scans of passengers, which are then validated by the face biometric within the passport’s electronic chip. “Since we started using SITA’s automated border gates, we have seen a significant reduction in queue times, with passengers taking as little as 10 seconds to go through the border checks,” Punta Cana International Airport CEO Frank Elias Rainieri said.

Biometric Path at Dubai International Airport

The idea of facial recognition affecting travelers hasn’t flown away. Emirates’ biometric path will improve passenger experience and flow throughout the airport with fewer document checks and less human intervention. The most recent biometric technology, a mixture between facial and iris recognition, is available in terminal three in the Dubai International Airport (DXB).

The “Smart Tunnel” immigration element is a world-first within passport control, where passengers simply walk through a tunnel and are cleared by immigration authorities, without the necessary documents we’re used to. Very similar to computerized tomography (think about the CT scan Derek Shepherd should have received in Grey’s Anatomy), 3-D CT technology could replace current conveyor belt security systems for carry-on luggage. Tunnels filled with CT technology would decrease the amount of time spent waiting in those dreadful lines.

Emirates plans to extend the biometric path to economy class travelers in the future, while currently it is focused on first and business class travelers. The biometric path plans to cover departures, arrivals, transit, baggage drops, chauffeur drive connections as well as lounge and hotel access in Dubai. The technology could potentially be used to locate those people running through the airport, trying not to miss their flight – which also improves security technology.

Multilingual Robot at Incheon Airport in Seoul

Next time you’re lost in an airport, you’ll be wishing you were at the Incheon International Airport getting help from Airstar, a second-generation robot designed to help passengers navigate around the airport. When Airstar was tested, it traveled at the average pedestrian speed (3 feet per second) and helps travelers navigate the airport. The world’s first commercially operating robot also uses technology like voice recognition and artificial intelligence and can communicate in four languages: Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English.

This isn’t the only airport with a robot. The Munich Airport and multiple airports scattered across Asia use robots to help out travelers. Josie Pepper is a humanoid robot at the Munich Airport that uses a cloud-based artificial intelligence technology in order to direct passengers to their gate and answer questions about restaurants and shops.

Rada is the first passenger-facing robot that appeared in Vistara’s Signature Lounge at the Delhi Airport in India. Not only can it help keep young travelers entertained with games, music and videos, but it can provide information on terminal facilities, departure gates, destination weather conditions, real-time flight status and more.

New App for Visually Impaired Passengers at Heathrow International Airport

As of December 3, visually impaired passengers traveling through London Heathrow International Airport (LHA), can use the Aira app to help them navigate through the airport. Aira is a free app that will connect travelers directly to a trained professional agent in order to navigate through Heathrow. While offering live updates on news affecting passenger’s flights, Aira also helps locate gates, special assistance facilities, retail outlets and restaurants.

Passengers can access Aira by downloading it on their smartphone or tablet prior to arrival to the airport. Passengers can also book special assistance from their airline while seeking information with Aira at the same time. Aira is similar to the “SignLive” app that launched in 2017 at Heathrow, which connects passengers to professional British Sign Language translators.

Have you visited any airports with advanced technology recently? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

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