4 key initiatives gaining momentum within the airport biometric ecosystem

According to recent studies, despite pandemic times, biometric enablement through smart passenger processing touchpoints (eGates, Check-in kiosks or BagDrops) is forecasted to continue to grow for the next 5 years at a rate of 140%. We can attribute it to 3 main causes:  

  1. According to 2021 IATA passenger survey , 73% are interested to use biometric information instead of passport & boarding pass. 
  2. Minimize face-to-face interaction, even more important today due to hygienic and public health purposes. 
  3. It allows fast and secure passenger processing in airports. 

By increasing the adoption of biometrics-based systems, the development of digital ID initiatives speeds up as it brings another layer of trust to ensure the uniqueness of our identity. According to Acuity Intelligence, only in 2021, over $2B were invested in biometric digital ID, confirming the relevance of this market. Europe is emerging with a fundamental framework, converging with the US consolidated strategy on mobile driver’s license (mDLs), by launching at least 4 major pilots of European digital identity wallet by September 2022 

Under this context, based on the 2021 IATA passenger survey, to respond to travellers that value awareness and convenience,  we would like, as a global technology partner to emphasize 4 main travel initiatives that have been gaining momentum concerning to digital ID initiative and the importance of standards & regulation on product development by design, respectively: 


1. ICAO Digital Traveller Credentials (ICAO DTC) 

As stated in ICAO Guiding Core Principles DTC document, “DTC is a digital representation of the traveler’s identity which can temporarily or permanently substitute a conventional passport. The DTC operates in a similar way to the ePassport within the travel continuum and can be validated using the travel document issuing authority’s public key infrastructure.” 

ICAO DTC-VC(1) enables the digitalization of passenger processing flow by making travel more efficient and convenient. It can be submitted by the traveler in advance of travel to provide both Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) information, apply for authorizations, support pre-border risk-management, and prepare the airport for seamless flow.  

As verifying authorities can authenticate the DTC, then it could be used as a form of digital identity. ICAO DTC is the main digital tool within aviation that enables a full interoperable airport ecosystem, as it can be an anchor for other digital solutions such as IATA Travel Pass. 


2. IATA Travel Pass  

Based on ICAO DTC principles, IATA One ID has become the main digital identity standard within aviation industry. Now, during COVID period using the same framework, it resurged in a form of a new mobile application called IATA Travel Pass. And … what does it serve for? 

It is an IATA mobile application that helps travellers to store and manage their health-verified certifications for COVID-19 tests or COVID-19 vaccinations. The concept adoption gained momentum among airlines, as more than 60 are already using it to validate health credentials. In addition, 4 interoperable modules are embedded to permit a trustworthy, secure framework to be checked by aviation stakeholders, essentially airlines and border agencies


As mobility restrictions start to be eased generally all around the globe, PR mentions to IATA Travel Pass have decreased, however, it is very likely to be a trend to stay. More health credentials exist in a physical format, such as yellow fever for instance, and they can also be digitized and integrated in advance into PDE (Passenger Data Envelope). By being attached to the passenger's biometrical data, the passenger can seamlessly be processed throughout the entire journey just by using his face, all the way from the curb to the gate. 


3. IATA ITPS (Technical Peripheral Specifications) 

Interoperability is one of the biggest challenges of the industry. It all wraps up into data exchange which, in the end, enhance traveller convenience and experience.  The IATA ITPS (Technical Peripheral Specifications) non-mandatory standard, formerly the AEA Technical Specifications, describes all exchanges of Departure Control Systems (DCSs) to devise communication and all device responses. These are required to use standard airline devices defined for "Common Use" (or dedicated).​ 

 ITPS covers devices such as:​ 

  1. ATB (Automated Ticketing and Boarding Pass Printer)​ 
  2. BTP (Baggage Tag Printers), including new RFID encoding details​ 
  3. BGR and E-Gates (Boarding Gate Readers and Self-Boarding Gates) with Biometric Validation​ 
  4. SBD (Self-Baggage Drop) and SD (Scale Device)​ 

Whether it’s in private areas or on CUSS/CUPPS platforms, the stakeholders that are willing to develop or use standard devices present at most airports worldwide are airlines and DCS application providers, hardware vendors, solution providers and airports (for a definition of their needs or technical maintenance follow-up). The better prepared SW solution providers are for receiving and transmitting data to airport in-house DCS, the better the integration to enhance a more seamless journey, hence traveler satisfaction. 


4. Accessibility Law UE 23/25 

Accessible travel is an important keyword here: numerous regulations are designed to ensure that persons with reduced mobility (PRM) are not disadvantaged in any way. According to the 2021 IATA passenger survey, 11% of respondents sought assistance for themselves or someone else while traveling in the last 24 months. To better address accessibility issues, Europe is following the same path as Canada (Accessible Canada Act), the US (ADA or ACAA), or Australia (DDA) in defining clear requirements to have accessible products and solutions for everyone. European Accessibility Act (EEA) will be mandatory for self-service touchpoints starting in 2025. 

The goal of the act is to harmonize and standardize accessibility rules so that products and services use a “design for all” approach. According to the UN Convention of Rights on the Persons of Disabilities, that approach “means the design of products, environments, programs, and services should be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” ​ 

These products and services include:​ 

  • computers and operating systems​ 
  • ATMs, ticketing, and check-in machines​ 
  • smartphones​ 
  • TV equipment related to digital television services​ 
  • telephony services and related equipment​ 
  • access to audio-visual media services such as television broadcast and related consumer equipment​ 
  • services related to air, bus, rail and waterborne passenger transport​ 
  • banking services​ 
  • e-books​ 
  • e-commerce​ 

Implementation deadline 

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Biometrics is already part of our daily routines. Based on 2021 IATA passenger survey, the traveler wants to use biometrics to have a more convenient travel experience. Consequently, the airport ecosystem is demanded for a faster digitization, focusing on acquiring solutions that have customer needs at the core of their product development and open to be integrated with 3rd party providers. That’s why ICAO DTC, IATA Travel Pass, IATA ITPS standards or EU Accessibility Act are so relevant in shaping the next step of 4.0 airport experience. 


(1)Virtual component represents a transportable data file containing biographic and biometric (only face) information in the physical passport. It can be issued in 3 types (eMRTD Bound Type1, eMRTD PC Boud Type2, PC Bound Type 3. For more info, here pag.12 


Publish date: March 2022

About the author

Gonçalo Rocha

Gonçalo Rocha

Market Intelligence Analyst @ Vision-Box