Travel and tourism is a trillion dollar industry globally. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the global travel and tourism industry has grown from US$ 6.03 Trillion in 2006 and reached US$ 8.27 trillion by 2017, growing at a CAGR of 2.9%. Travel related services create a large numbers of jobs and employ millions of people around the world.
There are economies that depend largely on tourism as a source of income. Macau, autonomous region at the south coast of China has a per capita tourism income of $16,797. Travel and tourism contributes to 51% of the total employment of the country.
Identification of travelers is one of the core requirements in many travel service businesses. Use of facial recognition in travel and tourism can introduce innovative applications for the industry. Travel service providers can improve efficiently, security and reliability with the use of biometric facial recognition.
Facial recognition for travel: where does it fit?
Be it a nearby tourist attraction or an island across the continent, when people choose to travel, they avail many services from businesses associated with travel and tourism. From taking taxi to the airport, booking a hotel or taking a joyride, there are countless travel services. They not only provide employment to a large population around the world, but also help improve customer experience. From airlines to hotels and travel agents to travel insurance companies, a multitude of businesses depend entirely on money spent by travelers.
Regardless of size and type of businesses engaged in travel and related services, most of them share a common business requirement: identification of travelers.
Security is an inherent requirement for travelers as well as travel service providers. Identification of passengers taking a flight, crossing international borders, etc. is something that can make a different in ensuring national security. Hotels and other accommodation services can also be a target of security threats.
Identification of travelers can help secure that a facility or service is only accessed by eligible / authorized travelers. An unauthorized individual may try to access a travel services to cause disruption, so a robust identification of travelers is a prime necessity.
To ensure non-transferability of services
Sometimes a traveler may choose to not to avail a service he/she has paid for and may wish to transfer the service to someone else. However, the travel service provider’s policy may not allow that. To ensure non transferability of services, identification of traveler may be required for some travel services.
When done with the help of technology powered identification approach like biometrics, traveler identification can actually help business improve efficiency, save time and resources. No wonder airlines, hotels, and many other travel service providers are increasingly taking up biometrics for identification of travelers.
Facial recognition: perfect modality for travelers
Biometric technology offers a host of modalities that can be leveraged for the identification or authentication of people. From traditional biometrics modalities like fingerprint, face, voice to more recent behavioral modalities, biometrics can fit in almost all use cases. Each biometric modality offers a set of advantages and disadvantages.
- Biometric facial recognition is one of the most deployed and used modalities.
- Most mobile phones come equipped a camera and that is all the hardware required for offering basic facial recognition functionality.
- Facial biometrics can identify a traveler from a distance by extracting his / her facial features. Today, biometric face recognition is used for security and surveillance around the world.
- Travelers would seek a non-invasive, hassle-free biometric enrollment, which no other biometric modality than face recognition can provide.
- It is easy to implement, can be deployed with existing surveillance camera systems with the help of facial recognition software.
What is facial recognition software?
In any facial recognition system, there are essentially two major components: image capture system and facial recognition software. Image capture system consists of one or more cameras that capture subjects’ images.
The captured images are then sent to the facial recognition software. Facial recognition software is a computer program that does the job of analyzing and extracting unique characteristics of images. It does it in accordance with the underlying facial recognition algorithm. These image characteristics are then used to create templates that are unique to an individual.
Lodging: traveler accommodation services
Travelers need lodging for sleep, safety, shelter, storage of luggage, etc. Lodging is a service that provides accommodation and access to common household functions. There are different types of businesses involved in providing travel accommodation; these involve hotels, motels, hostels, Inns, guest houses, tents, home stays, etc. Regardless of their types and differences all accommodation providers need to know their travelers.
Face recognition for hotels and other accommodation services can be used to enhance customer experience by registering their face at arrival. It can be then used for unlocking their rooms (using a mobile app or dedicated facial recognition door lock), food services, making payments, access control and more.
Facial recognition can work as a centralized access control system, replacing traditional cards or keys for the purpose in traveler lodging.
Food and catering services
Facial recognition can help speed up orders in food services and deliver a seamless experience to the travelers. It is particularly beneficial for repeat customers and food chains which have outlets in multiple locations.
In many pre-payment type food outlets, food is prepared on advance payment. The customer is provided with a receipt or token upon payment while his/her food is cooked. The token serves as the proof of payment and customer can show it to receive his food.
This whole process can be replaced by facial recognition. Today, many food outlets are moving to self-service kiosks, in which customer identity can be established at the time of order and food can be served upon facial recognition.
Implementations like these are already underway. In January 2017, The Guardian reported that KFC, an American fast food restaurant chain, equipped its food outlet in Beijing with facial recognition. According to KFC spokesperson, this system can recommend menu items based on a customer’s estimated age and mood.
A California based regional chain of fast food restaurants Caliburger has deployed facial recognition powered self-ordering kiosks. The fast food restaurant gives option to associate facial data of customers with the loyalty program and looks forward to enable facial recognition based payments.
Travelers largely depend on hired transportation services for their movement. Today cabs, taxis, self-driven vehicles can be booked via apps. From small scale businesses to multinational players like Lyft, Uber, etc. are involved in providing transportation services and some of them have already started using facial recognition to improve security and convenience.
Uber, the world’s largest taxi service has been using facial recognition to make sure that a vehicle is only driven by a driver, who has gone through Uber’s verification process. This is done to make sure that drivers do not hand over the vehicle to someone else. Uber calls this facial recognition powered driver verification solution “Real-Time ID” Check and it is implemented using Microsoft’s Face API.
Service providers can also use this technology to improve safety, security and proper service delivery for their customers. According to a report published in Bloomberg, “Yandex. Taxi”, the largest taxi service provider in Russia, will install facial recognition devices in all their cabs to identify tired drivers. The underlying software of the device can identify if a driver looks exhausted by identifying patterns like blinking, yawning and a less than upright posture.
Banks and financial services companies around the world are increasingly enabling their customers to use biometrics instead of traditional ID / password to access services. Rise of smartphones and new security approaches like behavioral biometrics has made it possible for banks and financial service companies to use biometrics for authentication.
Many banks as well as financial services companies have adopted facial recognition for authenticating payments with biometrics, popularly known as Selfie Pay. Since technology and infrastructure is already in place, travel service providers can sign up for financial services that enable travellers to pay with facial recognition.
Enabling payments with facial recognition will allow travel and tourism businesses to streamline their payment service along with other facial recognition powered services.
Facial recognition in airports
For a long time, boarding passes have worked as the key to boarding a flight. However, getting this key has never been an easy job. Travelers have to go through many procedures before getting the clearance for boarding a flight. They are taken though one or more security clearance checks, which are often founded crowded. Getting through immigration is another challenge at airports if you are crossing an international border.
A common thing among all airport formalities is waiting time. Most people end up waiting in queues for every airport procedure they have to go through, be it check-in, bag-drop, security checks or boarding. But that has already begun to change.
Facial recognition in airports is being deployed in major airports around the world to speed up passenger processing and enhance security. All airport checkpoints where passengers have to stop to verify their identity such as check-in, bag drop, boarding, etc. can be done using a facial scan.
A white paper “2025: Air Travel for a Digital Age” published by SITA, a multinational air transport technology provider, suggests that by 2025 air travellers will turn to their mobile phones for their travel related tasks. Mobile phones will be helping passengers make integrated travel plans, authenticate their identity with biometrics by connecting to the airline systems.
Photo recognition for immigrants
There have been reports that ICE has already been using biometric Photo recognition for immigrants. These reports have expressed concerns on legality of ICE’s actions. However, if done within legal boundaries, photo recognition for immigrants can be a powerful tool for the identification of immigrants.
Government agencies can obtain photos and personal details for such applicants and establish identity with facial recognition, which can be used to identify immigrants. It also gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement an opportunity to identify undocumented immigrants and illegal residents.
Regardless of their status, immigrants need access to various services like banking, social security, driving licence, etc. To access these services, they have to provide their personal details as well as photograph to authorized agencies. For example, U.S. states such as Utah, Vermont and Washington allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and to do so; applicant has to provide a photograph along with personal details.
Facial recognition can not only recognize subjects in real time, but can also process images not originally captured for facial recognition, as long as they are in a digital format. It gives immigration authorities ability to process photos of immigrants with facial recognition to identify them. The U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics estimates that the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. range from 10.5 million to 12 million, making approximately 3.2%–3.6% of the population.
Facial recognition has started to play an important role in airports to ensure border security. It can identify a traveler as well as instantly verify an identity claim. But for people who have already entered a country without proper documentation and approval, facial recognition in airports or border checkpoints offers no help. Fortunately, photo recognition for immigrants can help in such scenarios.
New and innovating applications of facial recognition are emerging for travel industry, which have dramatically improved two important aspects that every traveler dreams of: security and convenience.
Like many other use cases, facial recognition has a huge potential for deployment in travel industry. Many travel industry businesses around the world like airlines, hotels, food services, etc. have already begun to use facial recognition, acknowledging its superiority and potential.
The world has witnessed biometrics replacing passwords, PINs, keys, cards and almost everything that people need to prove their identity with. Facial recognition has particularly emerged as the fastest growing biometric modality in recent years. From unlocking phones to authenticating payments, facial recognition has proved its usefulness in applications that felt like science fiction earlier.