Thales is increasing the scope of its biometric screening pilot at the Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport in Madrid. The company first launched the pilot in November of 2019, allowing Iberia Airlines passengers to pass through security checkpoints with only a facial recognition scan. That pilot was carried out in collaboration with Iberia, IECISA, and Gunnebo, as well as the AENA airports authority, which operates the Adolfo Suarez Airport.
The expanded program, on the other hand, is a collaboration between AENA, Iberia, Thales, and Inetum, the latter of which acquired IECISA in April of 2020. Thales will be providing the facial recognition technology for the trial, while Inetum will act as the system integrator and AENA will be the go-between for the airline and the biometric engine itself.
The goal is to streamline the passenger journey while reducing the need for physical contact at airport checkpoints. Doing so will improve the travel experience and lead to better health and safety outcomes for passengers and airport staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To that end, airport operators will use mobile tablets to perform biometric scans of Iberia passengers. Those tablets have been outfitted with an improved facial recognition algorithm that can identify people wearing masks, so passengers will not need to remove their masks (and risk COVID-19 exposure) to complete the screening process. Meanwhile, the fact that the tablets are portable means that the airport will be able to move the tablets around to cover more gates with a smaller number of devices.
The various parties are also planning to use the trial to conduct research and development. In that regard, the project has the backing of Spain’s Industrial Technology Development Centre (CDTI), which is hoping that it will lead to the creation of new technologies that can support the country’s ongoing digital transformation. Any features that do emerge from the project will eventually be consolidated into a single application to deliver a unified screening process.
Thales has previously argued that airports should use facial recognition to enforce social distancing guidelines. The company has also partnered with NHS Scotland to test temperature detection technology that can spot people with a fever in a crowd.
February 22, 2021 – by Eric Weiss