Spanish national flag carrier Iberia has become the latest airline to trial contactless facial recognition technology at its Terminal 4 hub at Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD). In partnership with Spanish airport operator AENA,  IT services and software company Inetum, and multinational defense contractor Thales, Iberia is looking to find new ways of operating in parallel with new measures imposed since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release issued on February 11 seen by Simple Flying, Iberia laid out the following four points of the project:

  • Iberia, the airport authority, Inetum, and Thales are partnering in this ambitious project, supported by Spain’s Industrial Technology Development Centre (CDTI)
  • It allows the biometric detection of passengers using tablet-type mobile equipment
  • The aim is to increase security and speed procedures in an airport with numerous flights to many different destinations.
  • It implies seeking innovative ways of operating in the air travel industry to comply with the new health safety measures implemented following the COVID-19 outbreak

The F/R system can be used anywhere

Tablet-like mobile equipment will allow passengers’ biometric detection and eliminate all physical contact between them and any airport employee. It is hoped that by streamlining the entire process, it will also enhance the safety of all airline procedures.

Using mobile equipment also allows for a limited number of devices to be sufficient enough to deal with a large number of flights to multiple destinations. In addition to this, the system being tested is advanced enough to recognize a passenger’s face even if they are wearing a facemask.

Spain hopes to digitalize other processes

Spain’s industrial technology development agency, the Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial (CDTI), supports the initiative through a research and development program. It is hoped that this cooperation will improve and innovate the development of ideas that add to Spanish enterprises’ digitization.

In compliance with the new measures put in place, the facial recognition project at Madrid Airport will help develop new functionalities utilizing a dedicated application that controls security and boarding.

How does facial recognition work?

Just like everyone else, you can recognize a person by their face because you are familiar with their facial features- nose-mouth-eyes- and how they all come together. This is the same way biometric facial recognition works except on a grander algorithmic scale. Rather than relying on the memory of seeing a face, recognition technology sees data.

Facial recognition technology works in the following way:

  1. A photo or video is taken of your face.
  2. Facial recognition software maps your face, recording details such as the distance between your forehead and chin and the distance between your eyes. It also identifies as many as 68 other facial features unique to you that are key to distinguishing your face.
  3. Your facial signature is now a complicated mathematical formula that can be compared to a database of other facial images.

In 2018 it was estimated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had access to a database of more than 412 million facial images.

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