Transcript: Skip All the Lines: How customer digital identities create fast, private, and easy airport experiences at World Aviation Festival 2023 – Sept 27, 2023
Speakers: Adam Tsao, General Manager for Airside at Onfido, and Priscilla Duin-Cirkins, Chief Strategy Officer at Curaçao Airports Holding
Adam Tsao: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. I am Adam Tsao, co-founder and General Manager of Airside. And we are the world’s leading provider of consumer-controlled digital identity. I am so pleased to be joined today by my good friend, Priscilla, with the Curaçao Airport Holding.
We have been working with Priscilla and her team, [and] our partner Vision-Box, and the Ministry of Justice to bring true seamless travel to Curaçao. And today we’re all here together, thrilled to share a huge announcement.
Priscilla Duin-Cirkins: Hi, Adam. Thank you for welcoming me onto this platform. We are beyond excited and thrilled to announce that today we are launching the world’s first pre-flight biometric digital identity verification and contactless border processing process at our airport, the Curaçao International Airport. I know… I said a lot of words, didn’t I? What it essentially comes down to is that you are able to have your verified information — so, your face and your passports — sent out pre-flight to our immigrations process, and get through our airport, cross our borders, essentially with just your face.
So, no fumbling around, no looking in your bag for anything else. You’re just using your face to cross in and out of our borders at the airport.
Adam Tsao: That’s fantastic. So, we’re talking about a true “tarmac to toes-in-the-sand” experience in 20 minutes. What does that mean for you and your country, and the Ministry of Justice?
Priscilla Duin-Cirkins: Oh, my goodness. This has been a culmination of nine years’ worth of hard work. Nine years ago, we had a problem: we had long queue lines at immigrations. We knew at that moment in time that we needed to use technology to solve our queuing issues. What we did then is we automated the entire border process: built it from scratch, made sure that we were connecting it in the way that we can ensure the highest security for our immigrations personnel. We invested in the eGates — which we partnered with Vision-Box to realize — and at that point, we had a vision: we want our passengers to go through a seamless process.
And I know that’s what every airport really wants. But what we focused on is really making sure that our entire ecosystem is driven in a way that the passengers’ experience is realized in an optimal level while also maintaining the country’s interest, which is ensuring the highest security is realized. And there are a few staples that come with that: privacy for the passenger — having them be in control of their data as well as when they want to submit it; (and) having them pass through an efficient, friendly process to get to the beach as soon as possible.
And also we wanted to make sure that we are making our immigrations process super-efficient so that we have an end-to-end contactless process where we’re using the latest technology — which we get to do with you as our partner, but also it’s Vision-Box — to make sure that the passenger is being vetted according to the industry standards so that we make sure our borders are safe. So, it’s been a long process, and I’m so glad to be sitting here with you today.
The question I’ve gotten often is why is this the world’s first? And the reason for that being is that this is very much so focused on you as the passenger being in control of when you’re submitting your data. The immigrations have their standards for what they need and that’s your passport, that’s your biometric information.
But in this process, the passenger has the control in saying, “I want to go to Curaçao and so I’m booking my flight. Let me enroll using the Airside application so that I have everything in order. So that when I’m going on my trip, I’m just using my face to go through the different touch points.”
And our vision is way more than immigrations. So not to get ahead of ourselves, this is the big one. But, as soon as this is realized, we want to make sure that the passenger uses their one ID, which is their face, to keep walking through the entire airport process, whether it’s departing or incoming.
So, really the tourists, the passengers traveling to the airport, get to go through it as fast as possible, and get to what is the real reason that they came to visit us, which is Curaçao. Which is to feel it for yourself, what everything we have to offer is, what it is to be a Curaçaon experience.
So, if we can get you out the door as soon as possible, we can get you to fall in love with us quicker. That’s really what it’s all about.
Adam Tsao: That’s fantastic. We at Airside have long believed that your identity is such a part of humanity, your own humanity, that your digital identity has to be treated with the same respect. And so we have built a platform in which people get to gather up their own data and then control how much or how little they share that information, and they always are in control of their information. So, you’re creating your identity on your phone, you’re verifying the data, you’re binding that data with your biometric to your device, and then you get to share it as many times as you want with a single touch of a button. You can share as much or as little [as you like].
And every time you share, it is protected under three layers of encryption. You get to decide who sees the information, what information they see, how long and [for] what purpose. And if you’re not comfortable, with the single touch of the button, you get to revoke that share.
These are some of the principles that matter to us: to allow identities to be shared safely, securely and privately. We, as a company, have never seen a single piece of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) over our system. We can’t see it, we can’t mine it, we can’t sell it, we can’t save it. And so, these are important things for us.
When you’re thinking about digital identity and really putting the control and power back where it belongs — the person’s identity, who it belongs to — it’s been fascinating working with you and Vision-Box. Can you talk a little bit about why you chose a decentralized user-controlled identity?
Priscilla Duin-Cirkins: I mean, you hit it right. You hit exactly the reason why we chose you guys. We aimed to have a decentralized product simply because we, as immigrations, wanted to focus on exactly what they need to focus on: border control.
What we thought of as being very important in the digital age that we live in is the privacy. Not only did we want to just be GDPR compliant and in line with all of the privacy regulations, but we wanted to give the user comfort in knowing that what you are submitting is in your control.
As soon as you start talking about sending biometric information, everybody tends to think, “Oh, Big Brother is watching and what are they doing with my data?” And as soon as you tie that to immigrations, then they really think Big Brother is watching.
Well, we’ve built a structure, a workflow, where we can safeguard that, and we can ensure that you, as the passenger, know exactly what you’re sending. You’re sending the essentials — which is actually what you already give at the border, the standard information you give in the airport while crossing the border — just simply ahead of time.
Through the use of this, the encryption, and the level of security, and all of those technical details which I’ll spare the audience, were really all the reasons why we chose Airside
Adam Tsao: Fantastic. We have been working with the airlines and the U.S. government to create this identity which, again, this is a system. Once a user has created their identity, they can share it as much or as little as they want to.
This is an important aspect to making travel truly seamless because the user starts their journey at home, where they’re most comfortable. And throughout travel today, you make them stand in line to drop their bags, stand in line to talk to an agent, stand in line to go through security, stand in line to get to the lounge.
And by putting the digital identity back in their hands, like you said, with one touch, they can share it with whoever they want to or whoever they don’t want to. They’re always in control.
Priscilla Duin-Cirkins: Exactly. What you then get to experience as a passenger is a synchronized process. In the airport, it’s all about checks and balances. And what we need to do is make sure you’re having the best time while also making sure that the security is at the highest level.
So, as you mentioned, usually when you go through an airport process, you’re taking out the same documents many times. And the benefit of what we’ve set up, and because we already have an ecosystem in place with the eGates, with all of the other digital resources at the airport, you really get to leverage that and use your face for all of these different processes. And the beauty of that really comes into the interoperability and the collaborations between these technologies that we realized.
A good point that I wanted to highlight as well is how this technology enables you as a passenger to do way more than just come to the airport—or come to our airport. A pitfall that we wanted to avoid is to create an app where you’re just using it that one time you’re traveling to Curaçao, and hopefully you’re traveling more often than that. Our passenger profile is that of a one-time passenger, that’s the majority that visits us.
So, what’s the real push in getting them to download this app, right? It needs to have an added value. And the reason that we chose Airside is because it solely focuses on this identity part and caters to that service with other different partners. And your already-existing partners open up that platform so that if you use this app, you have the same advantage in different arenas that you can make use of. So it’s not just to come to our airport — not just a one-time app download — you’re going to have to use it for different processes as well, for example, (with) other airlines and other airports, and that gives us bigger leverage and a bigger span. And that’s exactly why we chose it.
Adam Tsao: That’s great. So we touched on it before that we have this partnership with Vision-Box, and that’s one of the reasons we’re able to bring this process live at the operational level to the vast majority of your visitors in very little time.
By sometime early next year (2024), we will be processing, hopefully, the vast majority of your passengers, and we’re able to do that because of these partnerships.
And so, we’ve turned what a lot of people are still doing in the pilot phase, we’re actually going to be live with real human beings with the vast majority of visitors to your country this next year.
Priscilla Duin-Cirkins: Yes. It’s going to be made available for all U.S., EU, and Canadian passport holders, which is the majority of the passengers traveling through our airport that get to make use of this process, and they get to go through a dedicated line.
So really, I can’t emphasize it enough: if you do this, you opt-in to this process. Once you get to the airport, you’re literally walking through immigrations; you are not stopping at any point in time. The camera’s capturing you ahead of time, validating immigrations, getting a click. [For instance] Adam, who’s already been vetted, already cleared through the system, just crossed our border and he’s in.
And the beauty in that is it allows our immigrations personnel to really focus on that group that they should really be focusing on, right? We want their efforts to not be on the passengers that have everything in order; those are the people who need to get to where they’re going as soon as possible. What they need to be doing and where their focus really, truly needs to be, is on that group of people that they need to vet more thoroughly in the areas that technology cannot enable us. Because at the end of the day, there’s a lot, still, that we need to be able to do that calls for our own judgment.
And immigrations, then, gets to specialize in doing that, which is going to be a great help for immigrations because right now they’re already experiencing the benefits of using the eGates, and this will only help them become more specialized in handling the tricky scenarios and alleviate that routine passport-scanning, “Oh,-everything’s-great; have-a good-vacation” process by allowing them to really focus on this one group. So that’s really the end game, what we’re looking at.
Adam Tsao: Yeah, that’s fantastic. So, what we’re talking about is really the plane touches down, you walk into the immigrations hall, you go straight down the escalator, and if you’ve gone through the process, you’re just walking by a camera and the eGate opens. We’re talking less than a few seconds for the whole process, as opposed to what can happen today is [that] a number of planes can land and all of a sudden, your hall is filled up and everybody is waiting. What we can do here is really put a truly seamless process into place.
Priscilla Duin-Cirkins: Exactly. That’s literally it, Adam, and that’s exactly what we’re going for. So, our vision goes even further than that. Because in the beginning of next year, we’re getting those passengers who walk through immigrations — they’re going to be at baggage — and what we want to do is seamlessly connect you to your bag, which we can do now with technology, and get you out the door. What did you say…”’30 minutes to the sand?’ ‘20 minutes to the sand?’”
Adam Tsao: 20 minutes from seat to sand.
Priscilla Duin-Cirkins: Well, not just sand because we have way more than sand to offer, but that’s exactly what we want the passengers to experience.
Adam Tsao: So, this is like you said, a truly world first. We’ll invite all of you to visit us in Curaçao to really experience it for yourself and see what we can do by combining privacy and technology, and really letting the officers focus on their jobs.
Priscilla Duin-Cirkins: Exactly. What we want to achieve is the highest security for the country with the most seamless flow that a passenger can experience at our immigrations.
Adam Tsao: Thank you. Come visit us!
Priscilla Duin-Cirkins: Come visit Curacao!