By: Jesse Davis West October 31, 2018

Over the next ten years, face recognition is likely to transform airports more than any other technology. Airports in Panama, Dubai, Australia, the U.S. and elsewhere have already begun implementing face recognition. It’s only a matter of time before virtually every international airport is using this technology. Why? Because face recognition offers a wide variety of safety benefits that can improve multiple aspects of air travel. 

Let’s look at six ways that face recognition can be used to protect passengers and ensure that air travel is safer than ever before. 

Smarter Surveillance at Airport Terminal Entrances 

How many faces can humans remember? While the answer may vary from person-to-person, there is no way that a human could recall the name and face of every individual who is wanted by the FBI, INTERPOL or on a terror watchlist or a no-fly list. This is especially true if a criminal has changed their appearance or is wearing a disguise. But face recognition can automatically identify when a person of interest enters an airport, and the system is not fooled by changes in appearance.  

FaceFirst’s face recognition surveillance works by capturing images of individuals in an airport at 30-frames-per-second and then using a machine-trained algorithm to select the best picture to match against a database of photos. If there is a match, the system instantly alerts security professionals of threats in real time. The system doesn’t profile by age, gender, race or country of origin. And it’s seldom fooled by changes in appearance. Since it’s proven to work well at long range, it’s perfect for airport surveillance.  

Insider Threats 

One of the biggest growing concerns in the aviation industry is insider threats. These threats might range from employees stealing from passengers’ luggage (as what happened in Miami) to threats that pose risks to public safety. Facial recognition can help by ensuring that employees are where they are supposed to be and, more importantly, not where they are not supposed to be. Face recognition can instantly recognize employees and alert airport officials if they go somewhere suspicious. 

Mobile Threat Identification 

Sometimes airport police stop cars as part of a random or scheduled security check. In these cases, airport police can use mobile face recognition applications to instantly identify people in cars. By simply taking a person’s picture from a safe distance, the officer can instantly determine whether that individual is a wanted criminal or an individual on a terrorist watchlist. Airport police can also use the FaceFirst mobile apps to instantly identify suspicious individuals at virtually any part of an airport. 

Baggage Claim Theft Reduction 

Unfortunately, luggage theft is a serious problem. A CNN study found that between 2010 and 2014, the TSA processed 30,621 claims of missing valuables. It’s especially a problem at certain airports. The New York Daily Mail claimed that 200 items are stolen every day from luggage at New York’s JFK airport. While at this point it’s impossible to eliminate luggage theft completely, face recognition can put a dent into the problem by alerting security when known thieves enter a baggage claim area. 

Identity Authentication for Passengers Boarding Planes 

Face recognition is already being used at certain airports as a means of authenticating passengers’ identities before they board planes. This can add an additional layer of security by making sure that the people who are boarding planes are really who they say they are. 

Identity Authentication at Customs 

Facial recognition can be used as an additional layer of security to help authenticate identity as individuals disembark planes and go through customs. This helps identify criminals, banned individuals and other people who pose a threat, before they enter a new country.  

If you’re interested in learning more about how facial recognition can help improve airport security, check out this case study showing how FaceFirst helped Panama’s Tocumen International Airport radically reduce crime.