Last week I attended the Passenger Terminal Expo in Copenhagen because a) the world of security and facilitation is converging, and b) we received quite a bit of feedback on our findings about eGates in the Global ePassport and eVisa Industry Report published last year. I wanted to see for myself what the current issues are in an industry focused on passenger processes and experiences, who the industry players are, and how they tackle opportunities.
First, some kudos for the organization. The event was large enough to cover a wide range of topics in parallel sessions, yet small enough to not feel lost in the crowd. It ran very smoothly, plenty of time for networking, and the best lunch I’ve ever had at a conference!
Many exhibitors focused on design, passenger comfort, and passenger flow: architects, interior designers, manufacturers of ergonomic tools, and vendors of chairs and benches who I regularly visited to rest my tired feet.
Security is important, but is being trumped by many other issues. I say security is important because airlines and airports have to comply with government mandates, not because they want to or that it is supported by a compelling business case. In fact, when Accenture’s Cyrille Bataller in his excellent “Insights into automated border clearance” session polled how many airport or airlines representatives were in the audience, the answer was 2. Shocking, and indicative of the chasm that still exists between security and facilitation, or between government and commercial operations.
The flavor of the month in passenger processing is automated boarding gates, and certainly from a gate manufacturer’s viewpoint I can see why: the unit volume is exponentially larger and the degree of technical complexity significantly less than with automated border gates. As a passenger, however, I am still puzzled: I may be getting faster in the passenger walkway, but then there’s still the bottleneck at the end of the walkway. Can automated boarding gates also solve that issue?
The automation theme continues through automated/self-service baggage check-in systems, with BagDrop for instance providing the capability of processing passengers, baggage, as well as payment (for overage) in a futuristic and efficient design. I saw it in operation in assisted automated deployment form at Schiphol on my way home. Promising.
I did not have the opportunity to attend passenger screening and check-in kiosks sessions, but these two in combination with the three mentioned above are the main security and facilitation components of the passenger arrival and departure process. Of course I am not entirely neutral, but it seems to me that a travel document (passport, ID card) on the front-end and an risk-based identity management system on the back-end can be the common denominator in a future integrated, automated system.