Part 3: Could blockchain speed up airport queues?


Repeated traveller identification processing is one of the biggest inefficiencies in business travel, with many passengers providing the same information continuously throughout their journey, from the time of booking through to check in, baggage control, security and again at gate control.

In a recent ABTA webinar, Sara Pavan, head of Amadeus Madrid’s Innovation Partnership Programme, said the use of blockchain, combined with other mobile and biometric technology could provide a unique solution in terms of the traveller identification process that didn’t exist before the merging of these various innovations.

She said: “With blockchain, the traveller could store their ID information, such as copies of their passport, as a digital token accessible through their mobile devices. So, when they arrive at a checkpoint where verification is required, they could provide their credentials by simply presenting a QR code generated on their mobile device linked to the traveller information stored on the blockchain.” At the same time, added Pavan, agents and authorities could use this technology to scan the QR code and collect the necessary information to meet the verification requirements.

The benefits of a system such as this are manifold. Pavan points out that this form of traveller identification verification would be more secure as there would be no need to store personal details on a database that could potentially be accessed by anyone and used for nefarious purposes. It would also be more transparent, and allow for real-time verification and modification of traveller data.

The implementation of blockchain-based traveller ID systems could soon be a reality, with the governments of Canada and the Netherlands announcing a collaboration with the World Economic Forum which will see the two countries pioneer the testing of the Known Traveller Digital Identity system. The project utilises biometrics, cryptography and distributed ledger technology (or blockchain) to give travellers control over, and the ability to share their information with authorities in advance of travel for expedited clearance.  

Speaking at the launch of the project in January this year, John Moavenzadeh, head of the Mobility System Initiative at the World Economic Forum, said: “With travellers providing access to verified personal biometric, biographic and historical travel data at their discretion, they can assist authorities to undertake risk assessments and pre-screening in advance: essentially verifying their identities and providing secure and seamless movement throughout their journey using biometric recognition technology. Not only does this provide for greater personalisation and passenger-centricity in the design of services, but the passenger becomes a central actor in ensuring public safety.”