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Civil aviation ministry releases policy on biometric based processing of passengers

Airports Authority of India (AAI) intends to roll out the programme initially at Kolkata, Varanasi, Pune and Vijayawada by April, 2019

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The Union Minister of Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu has released the policy on biometric based digital processing of passengers at airports called “Digi Yatra”. Prabhu said that the ministry has taken the initiative to develop standards for digital processing of passengers at airport to ensure uniform implementation and passenger experience across Indian airports through a connected ecosystem. He said, a technical working committee having members from airport operators, airlines and industry has been formed for development of standards.

The DigiYatra Central Platform will be operational by end of February, 2019. Bengaluru and Hyderabad International Airports will be ready with pilot implementation by the end of February, 2019. Airports Authority of India (AAI) intends to roll out the programme initially at Kolkata, Varanasi, Pune and Vijayawada by April, 2019.

Prabhu said that DigiYatra will provide a pan-India platform for future, adding that airports will have the possibility of providing innovative services and consent based targeted services in future.

“Any service provider involved in facilitating travel of passenger from door to door will be able to use this platform in future through innovative solutions,” he said, asserting that the ultimate beneficiary will be the passengers, who will have all the travel related options available to them.

Elaborating on the contours of Digi Yatra, Minister of State of Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha said, it is a facial recognition based passenger processing which is a common standard being adopted globally. To provide a seamless experience right from the entry to the airport upto boarding the aircraft. Sinha said that DigiYatra will have a centralised registration system for passengers.

“Under the Digi Yatra, passengers can get a Digi Yatra ID by sharing minimum details like name, e-mail, mobile number and details of one approved identity proof where Aadhar ID is not mandatory. This DigiYatra ID will be shared by passengers while booking the ticket. Airlines will share the passenger data and DigiYatra ID with the departure airport,” he said.

Sinha pointed out that a passenger who has created the Digi Yatra ID has to undergo a one-time verification at the departure airport during the first travel.

“In case a passenger opted for Aadhar based verification, the identity will be verified online. On successful verification, facial biometric will be captured and stored in the Digi Yatra ID profile of the passenger. In case the passenger has chosen any other identity for creating Digi Yatra ID, verification will be done manually by security personal and facial biometric will be captured and stored in the Digi Yatra ID profile. By this process the registration is complete,” he explained.

Sinha said that Digi Yatra will bring benefits to passengers and all stakeholders involved in the process, as the airport operator will have travel information in advance for better resource planning and the real-time data of passengers within the terminal will enable the operator to take proactive action to avoid congestion.

Civil Aviation Secretary Secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey further elaborated on Digi Yatra mechanism, saying that a successfully registered passenger can go directly to the entry point E-Gate of the airport and scan the barcode/ QR code of the ticket/ boarding pass.

“A camera will capture the face for comparing with DigiYatraID photo. On successful verification of the travel details and facial matching, the E-Gate will open. The system will also generate a token in the system combining the face of passenger with PNR of the ticket, so that at subsequent check points the ticket details will be available on face recognition,” Choubey said.

At the check-in counter or the self bag drop counter, the passenger will be identified by face and there is no need to show any document or ID for this purpose. The passenger will gain entry to the security check area through an E-Gate by facial recognition. Similarly at the boarding gate, the passenger will be identified by face for entering through an E-Gate for boarding the aircraft.

“Airlines will have the information of passengers and their status within the terminal – no more missing passenger causing departure delays. Security will benefit from the ability of the technology to verify the passenger at every checkpoint in a non intrusive way, except that physical frisking of the passenger as per security procedures will continue. Intentional boarding pass exchange by passenger or wrong boarding by mistake will not happen,” Choubey added.

As Indian aviation is witnessing an unprecedented passenger growth for the past 50 months and it is likely to continue, this would mean the existing airports have to handle more passengers for considerable time before additional infrastructure is created.

“The passengers are expecting better facilitation at the airport and security remains a key concern in air travel. Leveraging technology is the only solution to meet such challenging requirements,” Choubey said. Pointing out that multiple stakeholders are involved in a seamless travel process for a passenger, he emphasised that it was important that the stakeholders work in a connected environment for reaping the benefits of technology. He said, in order to achieve this objective, the Ministry of Civil Aviation evolved the concept of DigiYatra which envisages a connected ecosystem enhancing the seamless travel experience for the passengers and simultaneously improving the security.

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