Could international air travel be the ID killer app?

Air travel is set to rise to 1.8bn journeys a year by 2030, says WorldReach, which is working with Canada and the Home Office to start us moving to automatic biometric-supported travel

Posted 4 December 2018 by Gary Flood

Want a use case for extended public and commercial use of working Digital ID?

If access to useful public services doesn’t do it for you – how about how much of a hassle it is taking a flight these days?

That’s the view, at least, of a Digital Identity vendor that is actually doing such work on the ground – WorldReach Software Corporation, a Canadian ID firm that works with┬ánational governments to help them achieve such things as improve the security and facilitation of immigration and border management services, including moving to seamless borders for low risk travellers, provide innovative approaches and digital options for passport services delivery and issuance and┬áremote identity verification capabilities for use in digital service delivery or federated ID programmes.

And at last week’s successful Think Digital Identity For Government 2018 conference in Westminster, its Director, UK, Jon Payne, explained how his company is working with Canadian authorities to see how quickly technology can help a situation where 2016’s total of 1.3bn cross-border travel is set to rise to more like 1.8bn by 2030 – without any real possibility of airports or ports expanding their footprint to cope.

“We are moving towards virtual borders where we will try and get more data before you travel to cross my border so I can concentrate on the cases I need to and make it easier for the majority of travellers to get through in acceptable time,” he told well-known computer journalist David Bicknell on-stage in a special session on ‘Remote Identity Verification’.

Such virtual borders are likely to be delivered through extensive use of biometrics, which will be captured prior to travel in most cases, said Payne, who worked at the Home Office for 18 years before moving into the private sector.

The good news is that there are a number of international travel and tourism initiatives at cross-governmental level actively working on integrating Digital ID and biometrics (and other techniques), he told delegates at the very full session, including the ICAO’s ‘Digital Travel Credentials.’

Canada, he added, has already got quite far down this path, looking to radically improve its older processes and move to a more automatic check-in procedure around its eTA visa-free travel scheme – while Payne revealed that his company is also working with the Home Office to help deliver the Settlement Programme for EU Nationals, a procurement process he said “was one of the quickest I’ve ever seen”.

Answering a question from a delegate, Payne also stated that he believes senior UK government figures have also sat down with Apple leadership to try and get the latter to unblock third-party access to its NFC tech so that the scheme can also be offered on iOS – not, notoriously, as it is now, only available on Android.