MAHB to roll out biometric identification at KLIA by June 2020

‘Single Token’ uses passengers’ facial identity as a substitution for passports and flight tickets at several verification points

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH/TMR PIC

MALAYSIA Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) is expected to roll out its biometric identification process for international outbound passengers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) by June this year.

The identification method, known as “Single Token”, uses passengers’ facial identity as a substitution for passports and flight tickets at several verification points.

“Essentially, now the boarding process relies on three pieces of information: The identity card (IC) or passport, boarding pass and facial identity, with a shorter
amount of verification time,” MAHB senior GM (information technology) Lee Yiang Ming said.

This three-piece combination creates a digital token that allows passengers to go through various touchpoints using only their facial identity.

“We are trying to fully implement this new identification method by 2021 and we are going to slowly roll it out beginning June this year,” Lee told reporters in Sepang last Friday.

MAHB’s financial commitment in the new identification method has been allotted in the airport operator’s financial planning for the next three years, he added.

“This project has been included in MAHB’s three-year plan, the new regulated asset base that we will be operating under. It’s a new operating framework and will take a bit of time to be approved.

“After the pilot project is completed, we will go through a quick procurement process, if needed, and then we will continue with the full implementation,” he said.

For the airport operator’s long-term plan, the “Single Token” is expected to be introduced at all MAHB’s international airports.

“We plan to roll it out at all MAHB airports, as that is where the greatest success would be in this implementation. However, domestic airports are still being considered for this system,” Lee stated.

The group manages 39 airports across Malaysia (five international airports, 16 domestic airports and 18 short take-off and landing airports), as well as one international airport in Turkey.

“We are trying to roll it out over the next couple of years as it’s going to be a significant investment.

“We still have to convince the passengers and airline partners that this is the right thing to do, and generally it will take a couple of years. But in two years, KLIA is hoping to be more or less a self service airport,” Lee added.

In compliance with Malaysia’s data protection regulations, the information gathered by the system will only be stored for six hours due to security reasons in addition to
being stored as encryptions.

“Using the platform, the data will be retained at the airport for six hours and if a passenger attempts to be verified again at the seventh hour, the system could not detect the person,” he said.

The “Single Token” is currently being tested for three months beginning Jan 29, 2020, at KLIA for passengers travelling to Kansai and Narita, Japan, via Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB).

About 55% of the passengers who went through the trial run opted out from using the biometric system, MAB group COO Ahmad Luqman Mohd Azmi said.

“Passengers have the choice of not being verified through this method. However, if you were to compare the verification period, the ‘Single Token’ requires almost half the time compared to the normal cross-checking method.

“About 45% of the passengers participated opted in for it. Based on our survey, those who opted out preferred to be checked in at the counter due to the luggage issues and other small problems,” he said.

The “Single Token” is part of MAHB’s Airports 4.0 digital initiative, which aims to transform the airport into a smart facility using big data analytics.