Monday, March 23, 2009

Biometric boarding

This press release came out some time ago, but it indicates where we may be going.

Monday 9 March 2009

Air France tests smartboarding®, the automated boarding process on departure from Paris to Amsterdam

Starting on Tuesday, 17 March and up to the end of 2009, Air France will be asking those Flying Blue customers who travel most frequently from Paris to Amsterdam to test the new automated boarding system, smartboarding®.

This new system is a world first. With a personal card which contains the latest biometric technology (encrypted fingerprints), RFID (radio frequency identification) and thermal printing (the back of the card can be reused up to 500 times), these passengers will be able to board through a dedicated portal whenever they choose.

Developed together with Citizengate, the smartboarding® service has 4 stages:

1. In a special office at the airport (Paris-Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2F), customers can obtain their personal smartboarding® card in just a few minutes which is immediately operational. During registration, all the customer’s identity information (surname, first name, Flying Blue membership number), as well as their encrypted fingerprints is transmitted to the smart card. This registration stage is only carried out once and no files are kept by
Air France.

2. On the day of departure, after having checked in by whichever means they have chosen (self-service kiosks, Internet, mobile phone, check-in counter), customers insert their card into the smartboarding® kiosk which comes out with their boarding pass printed on the back.

3. As soon as boarding starts, passengers choose the precise time they wish to board through a dedicated portal situated near the jetway. This equipment checks that the passenger is alone and then reads the information on the smartboarding® card and compares it with the passenger’s fingerprints. If these tests, which are the equivalent of the usual checks carried out to match a boarding card (paper or mobile phone) to a passport are positive, the gate opens to allow the passenger to board the aircraft.

4. At the door of the aircraft, passengers show the back of their card to the crew, in the same way as a normal boarding pass.

“For the last few years, Air France has embarked on a process of trial and innovation to contribute to designing the air transport of the future. Everything that can make air travel simpler and easier for our customers has become the focus. With this world first, Air France is taking a further step towards building the airport of tomorrow" explained Patrick Roux, Vice President Marketing Air France KLM.

One potential challenge probably won't show up on Paris-Amsterdam flights, but could show up in the future when people change planes at hubs - could airport/airplane humidity adversely affect the ability of the equipment to capture the fingerprints?
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