Facial recognition and digital are changing the nature of travel
From telecoms to transport and hotels to airlines, operators are embracing change as consumers seek more digital convenience T he opening of the first two ‘walk through’ immigration counters in the departures terminal of Emirates Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport – so first and business class passengers don’t need to show their passports, or break their stride – is a clear sign travel is changing in the ‘smart travel’ era. Resembling a longer version of the e-gates, they come fitted with more than 80 hidden, hi-tech cameras which confirm your identity.
Facial recognition is gaining traction at many global hubs. London Heathrow recently announced a new £50 million biometrics project, which will see facial recognition at “each point of the departing passenger’s journey”, including check-in, bag drops, security lanes and boarding gates. A full-scale roll out of new biometric services is planned next summer.
A survey by SITA found 77 per cent of airports and 71 per cent of airlines are either researching biometrics or planning to implement programmes to identify travellers using facial recognition or other biometric means. It’s here to stay.
Biometrics have the power to create a more seamless customer experience
Jet Blue has trialled biometric (facial) boarding at Boston Airport and Delta will soon operate the first ‘ biometric terminal’ in the US and be able to identify travellers at every step from check-in to boarding. British Airways, which trialled biometric gates at Heathrow Terminal 5 last year, has expanded trials of biometric boarding and arrivals technology at Los Angeles, Orlando, Miami and New York JFK.
“Biometrics not only have the power to create a more secure world by validating identity with more certainty, but also create a more seamless customer experience,” said Caryn Seidman Becker, CEO and chairman of airport security firm Clear. “We picture a not-so-distant future where biometrics replace the need for cash, credit cards and physical forms of identification – think health insurance cards, hotel check-ins, restaurants, car sharing, smart cities and more. The possibilities are endless.”
HAIL AN AUTONOMOUS TAXI
The digital handbrake has been released. Dubai’s RTA unveiled its first autonomous taxi at Gitex 2018 last month, which is being piloted in Silicon Oasis. Other innovations include Dubai Police’s second version of a hover bike it unveiled last year and UAE telecoms operator du has partnered with Amal Glasses to showcase smart solutions for the blind and visually impaired.
And there were robots who are now commonplace in IT exhibitions if not in everyday life, although you can find some hard at work in places such as M Social Hotel, Singapore.
Airport Solutions Dubai delegates heard how Hyperloop wants to “rip up the timetable” and create ondemand travel, which will be music to the ears of business travellers. The devil may be in the detail, but it’s indicative of the entrepreneurial ambition in these automated, data-driven times, where anything’s possible and the efficiency of every operation can be assessed.
Smart Dubai signed a partnership with the Centre for Technology and Global Affairs at the University of Oxford, which will see the two entities exchange expertise on artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, IOT and drones.
The government department also teamed up with the UAE’s telecoms regulator to launch the UAEPASS digital identity for citizens, residents and visitors.
UBER RAISES SAFETY BAR
Uber’s new Safety Toolkit designed to improve driver and passenger security represents a ‘step change’ for the ride-hailing app, according to Sachin Kansal, Global Head of Safety Product. Speaking in Dubai, he said the measures which are being rolled out across the Middle East, Europe and Africa, will boost transparency,
accountability and provide peace of mind. But after a number of highprofile incidents, he acknowledged it has work to do. “We know we can get better and we need to improve,” said Kansal, who is an Uber driver who has chalked up 105 trips. New features include: An emergency button Trusted contacts, in which trip information can be shared with five friends or family members
Safety centre, which provides access to Uber’s 24/7 team, GPS tracking, rating and feedback system
Speed alerts to remind drivers to drive within limits
An anonymous number for connecting riders and drivers, while maintaining the privacy of their own numbers TECH FOR TOILETS, VIRTUAL REALITY AND ATM Industry group Airport Councils International’s (ACI) recent Airport Service Quality: Airport Cleanliness report found that clean restrooms and terminals had the greatest effect on travellers’ airport ratings. “If you want a pleasant experience, clean bathrooms are a must,” said ACI associate director Dimitri Coll.
Atlanta’s busy Hartsfield Jackson International Airport and LAX have invested in technology from TRAX SmartRestroom, which manages both restroom cleanup and stall availability to cut bathroom wait times.
The system is simple for travellers: a red light indicates an occupied stall, which green means the stall is available. In the background, sensors track how many people enter and exit the restroom so that cleaning crews can be alerted after certain thresholds have been met. Washington D.C.’s Reagan and Dulles airports are using an app that provides updates on restroom cleanliness.
Whether you’re a nervous flyer or just looking for a new IFE option, Alaska Airlines wants to transport you out of the cabin and into new worlds of virtual reality ( VR). The airline is partnering with SkyLights, which provides airlines with immersive VR technology, and First Class passengers on ten flights between Boston and Seattle and Boston and San Diego can test out the VR headsets.
Brett Weihart, CEO, Scandinavian Mountains Airport will share the experience of ‘revolutionising air traffic management through digitization’ in the Global Air Traffic Management conference at Roda Al Bustan, November 5-6. EMIRATES SKYWARDS PUTS BIG DATA TO WORK Emirates Skywards is “putting big data to work” to deliver more personalised and relevant offers and experiences through predictive data modelling. As digitisation increasingly disrupts industries, Emirates says it is working hard to put information and power into the hands of consumers. “Today’s travellers are ‘always connected’, thanks to their mobile devices, expecting services and
Smart tunnels in Emirates Terminal 3 departures, Dubai International Airport
ABOVE: Uber outlines its new safety measures
BELOW: Automated taxis on display at GITEX 2018