LHR tests self-boarding system


10 April 2013

Aircraft embarkation times and border security could be improved following the trial of a self-boarding system at London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 1. In the trial, which ended on 25 March 2013, passengers travelling with South African Airways (SAA) were invited to use self-boarding through an e-gate controlled by the Passenger Authentication Scanning System (PASS). Developed by Atkins and HAL, PASS uses Aurora’s infra-red facial recognition technology to capture passengers’ biometric data, ensuring that the person who checked-in is the person who boards the aircraft. In use, passengers reaching the self-boarding gate pass through an automatic electronic barrier which takes an infrared scan of their face. This information is checked against the biometric data that was taken at the check-in stage. When the two sets of data scans are successfully matched, the barrier opens and the passenger can pass through and board their flight. Atkins’ project director, Dr Nick Whitehead explained that facial recognition has been perceived as more acceptable in terms of public perception, but that a previous iteration of the technology had been too variable in its capability due to the impact of changes in lighting conditions. Conversely, a biometric identification system based on finger printing was removed from Heathrow’s Terminal 5 despite operating successfully for a short period of time. “The fingerprint system was deployed and withdrawn because the Data Commissioner decided - pretty much straight after T5 was opened - that it was a disproportionate requirement on the travelling public because of the fingerprint connotation with criminality,” said Whitehead.

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