Go ahead, take my biometric data, many Koreans say

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Go ahead, take my biometric data, many Koreans say

A passenger uses the palm vein authentication system at Gimpo International Airport on Monday. [KWAK JAE-MIN]

A passenger uses the palm vein authentication system at Gimpo International Airport on Monday. [KWAK JAE-MIN]

A 43-year-old man surnamed Kim who was waiting at Gimpo International Airport for a plane to Busan Tuesday said he came early to preregister biometric information needed for vein recognition. He said he wanted to avoid unnecessary contact with others.  

“This is my first time boarding a plane after the coronavirus outbreak. If I use the vein recognition system at the airport, I do not have to take off my mask or have contact with the airport staff while they check my identification card,” he said.
Ahn, a businesswoman in her 30s who was waiting in the same line, has been using this service since last year. She likes it because it allows her to board planes faster than others.  
“Since it has its own security checkpoint, I don’t have to experience congestion. There is less physical contact compared to fingerprint recognition since all you need to do is place your palm above the device. It makes me feel safer, especially in the age of a pandemic,” said Ahn.  

More passengers use biometric recognition systems at airports   

The coronavirus has forced airports to come up with services to minimize human contact. As the concern over infection increases among passengers, a growing number of people are switching from face-to-face identification and paper tickets to biometric recognition systems and mobile passes.  
According to the JoongAng Ilbo’s analysis of data provided by the Korea Airports Corporation (KAC), the user rate for biometric recognition systems more than doubled in the first four months of this year compared to the rate for full-year 2019.  
The user rate for the service last year was only 9 percent of 32,702,726 domestic passengers. That figure jumped to 17.1 percent, or more than 1.1 million users, from January to April this year, when the coronavirus started spreading internationally.  

Secure and hygienic identification process  

The KAC has deployed a palm vein authentication system at 14 local airports, including Gimpo International Airport and Jeju Airport since last year. Under this system, passengers can identify themselves through the unique vein patterns of their palm scanned through the device.  
Like an iris or fingerprint, vein patterns on the palm have been used as a way to verify identification due to the uniqueness of the patterns. Surreptitious copying of vein patterns is far more difficult. Unlike fingerprints, vein patterns do not require any physical contact with the device.  
A passenger puts his hand over the palm vein authentication system to enter the departure gate. [KWAK JAE-MIN]

A passenger puts his hand over the palm vein authentication system to enter the departure gate. [KWAK JAE-MIN]

The KAC signed a memorandum of understanding with the Korea Financial Telecommunications & Clearings Institute to utilize the biometric information obtained from the public by the finance sector. It plans to allow passengers who have registered their palm information with card companies and banks to board domestic flights without having to check their identification cards. Around one million people have registered their biometric information with financial institutions. Once financial institutions finalize their revision of service terms and finish receiving individual consent, the KAC and partnering financial institutions are likely to utilize biometric information together by this year.

Use of mobile tickets on the rise to avoid long queues

 A man holds up his mobile boarding pass. [KWAK JAE-MIN]

A man holds up his mobile boarding pass. [KWAK JAE-MIN]

Mobile tickets are also becoming popular. According to KAC data, the user rate for mobile tickets increased by 10 percentage points since this April compared to last year. In 2019, 17.1 percent of more than 5.6 million domestic passengers used mobile boarding tickets. The ratio increased to 27.1 percent over the past four months.  
Passengers boarding domestic flights can check in online through their mobile app 24 hours to 30 minutes before the plane takes off. After check-in, passengers will receive a mobile ticket that allows them to skip the check-in counter and head straight to the departure gate.  
“After the coronavirus outbreak, we are seeing growing demand from consumers for a safe and convenient travel experience at the airport,” Son Chang-wan, president and CEO of the KAC, said. “We plan to use the biometric information collected not only to verify one’s identity but for other facilities inside the airport such as currency exchanges, food and beverage stations and duty-free stores.”

Local airlines start 'untact' services  

To minimize contact between passengers and airline employees, Jeju Air changed its system to have passengers scan their plane tickets on a bar code reader on their own before boarding flights. The airline also advised passengers to follow social distancing rules when boarding flights. Now passengers board strictly by seat number.  
“We introduced systems like the self-ticket scanner and strict boarding orders to minimize concerns over face-to-face contact,” said an official from Jeju Air. “We are devising other ways so that social distancing can become a part of our normal operating routines.”  
BY KWAK JAE-MIN [kang.jaeeun@joongang.co.kr]
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