Brazilian airports expand facial recognition trials

The domestic airports in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are advancing trials of a system developed by the federal government.
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

The domestic airports in the Brazilian cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are advancing trials of facial biometrics as part of an initiative to boost airport operational and cost efficiency with the use of next-generation technology.

Introduced this week for pilots and flight attendants working for airlines Azul, Gol, and Latam, the technology is aimed at speeding up boarding processes by removing the requirement to show ID to access the departure lounge and aircraft.

Procured by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Special Secretariat for Management and Digital Government of the Ministry of Economy, the new functionality is part of the ongoing Safer Boarding programme. The initiative has seen a number of trials taking place with approximately 5,000 passengers in airports serving the cities of Florianópolis, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Brasília, as well as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

The system based on facial biometrics was developed by government-owned technology company Serpro, with input from a pool of stakeholders including the Civil Aviation Agency, airlines, and airport operators. In addition, a group of IT companies is engaged in the process, including Amadeus, Biomtech, Collins, Digicon, Gunnebo, Rockwell Collins, Pacer, SITA, Wolpac, Idemia, and Azul/Pacer.

Following an initial two-week trial period at the São Paulo domestic airport which can be extended, Santos Dumont airport in Rio de Janeiro will also pilot the feature focused on pilots and flight attendants. The facial biometrics project was preceded by the rollout of a digital crew ID.

In terms of the actual functioning of the feature, when users need to access restricted security areas, devices collect the crew member's facial biometric data and validate the biometric parameters against the crew ID database, to confirm the status of the individual as a civil aviation crew member and the ID validity.

When biometric identification is verified, crew members can access the area without the need to present physical ID, thus avoiding contact between the crew and airport agents. In case the process fails, documents can be manually verified; according to the government, access control through facial biometrics does not exempt crew from airport security inspection procedures.

According to the government, negotiations between the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Civil Aviation Secretariat, airports and airlines are at an advanced stage for the full implementation of biometric boarding across Brazil's airports in 2022.

Airlines in operation in Brazil such as Gol have been using facial biometrics to speed up boarding at the gate since 2019. Facial recognition totems compare the captured image with the photo on the passenger's records, with 1024 facial points are analyzed in less than a second, with 98% accuracy.

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