British Airways has joined the growing army of travel suppliers that are using facial recognition to cut their costs or improve the customer experience, depending on your point of view. At three boarding gates at Heathrow travellers on domestic flights are now approved for flights on the basis of their facial recognition data matching that collected when they passed through security.
The carrier plans to expand the technology to international gates later this year.
But BA is only following a much bigger trend. Facial recognition is becoming common in travel. KLM began tests at Schiphol earlier this year and CDG airport is also trialling the technology.
Travellers are generally understood to want to move through airports in a quicker, more user-friendly and frictionless way. Facial recognition does this. As well as time, it also removes some more people, and therefore cost, from the process.
Facial recognition is also being trialled at Japanese airports. Trials to use facial recognition for traveller screening will shortly begin at Ottawa, Toronto and Quebec City airports in Canada and there are plans to introduce facial recognition traveller screening in Australia.
Facial and eye recognition are in operation at San Diego airport in the US. Biometric information in various forms for various purposes has been in use at many airports for some time.
Biometric data is not just in use in air travel though. Remember that a fingerprint can approve a payment using Apple Pay on your iPhone.
But the real growth may come from voice recognition. Siri is already apparently used by more than 50% of iPhone users. Given the rise in the use of chatbots in business travel (think FCM's SAM), it's almost inevitable that rather than relying on messaging apps these traveller support tools will shortly be managed through voice recognition. Booking.com is reported to be testing voice recognition technology for hotel bookings.
Business travellers are increasingly willing to swap human interaction for speed and convenience when travelling. There are many set responses based upon market knowledge and personal history. That is why automation, machine learning and chatbots are making such strides in the industry. There is no reason why voice recognition and automated voices like Siri don't play a bigger role in supporting business travellers in the near future.