The results of last year’s FindBiometrics Year in Review Survey inevitably showed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which distorted various activities and trends in the biometrics industry. Some of these distortions have been predictable – such as the reduced interest in fingerprint scanning when there were serious concerns about viral transmission through shared surfaces – while other were less so. A great example of the latter, and an area to watch as the 2021 survey results come in, was biometric traveler screening.
This refers to the expedited screening programs available to travelers at various airports, such as TSA PreCheck and CLEAR. Complementing the biometric border control systems that are being deployed across a growing number of airports around the world, these passenger screening programs are voluntary, and primarily aimed at giving travelers a faster and more convenient means of moving through the airport.
The pandemic massively disrupted air travel in 2020, of course. But the results of the 2020 Year in Review Survey delivered a result that would probably have been counterintuitive to many: interest in these kinds of traveler screening programs jumped year-over-year. In the 2019 survey, 34 percent of respondents said they were part of a biometrics-enabled expedited traveler screening program; in 2020, that number jumped to 43.5 percent. Meanwhile, whereas 27 percent of respondents in 2019 said they had no plans to sign up for such a program, that number fell to 14 percent in last year’s survey.
It may be that concerns about the virus actually encouraged people to look into expedited screening programs so that they wouldn’t have to spend any more time than necessary lingering in queues and waiting areas with other, potentially infected travelers. Or perhaps the travel restrictions imposed by various authorities in 2020 prompted many to seek out programs that could potentially make the travel process easier, since their identities and status as permitted travelers could be confirmed in advance.
In any case, it will be interesting to see if the numbers went up again in the results to the 2021 Year in Review Survey. And it will also be interesting to note whether the 42.3 percent of respondents who said in 2020 that they intended to sign up for an expedited screening program actually followed through as various travel restrictions were lifted in 2021.
If you’re a traveler who has embraced – or rejected – these kinds of biometric screening programs over the past year, now is the time to make your voice heard. The 2021 Year in Review survey is still open, and only takes a couple of minutes to complete, so please make sure your perspective is taken into account in this year’s poll.
December 21, 2021 – by Alex Perala
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