Finavia/Finnair Face Recognition

Finavia & Finnair

About Finavia & Finnair

Finavia is a Finnish airport operator that enables smooth international flight connections through its national airport network. Between 2014 and the early 2020s, Finavia will invest one billion euros in Helsinki Airport to strengthen its position in the international competition between airports and as a significant airline hub between Europe and Asia. By 2019, Finavia aims to serve 20 million passengers at Helsinki Airport annually.

Finnair is a Finland-based network airline that flies passengers and cargo between Asia, Europe and North America with an emphasis on fast connections via Helsinki, carrying more than ten million passengers annually. As of 2018, Finnair’s extensive network connects 19 cities in Asia and 7 in the Americas with more than 100 destinations in Europe.

Challenge description

Increasing air travel is an opportunity for both airlines and airports, but existing infrastructure presents a new challenge. Airports around the world are struggling to keep up with the growing number of passengers, resulting in long check-in, security and boarding lines.

The problem has a lot to do with people flow at various access control checkpoints. Robust access and passport control solutions are mandated by regulations, but in their current form, they are also costly, take up precious space and create bottlenecks. Carrying around physical documents and standing in lines makes the travel experience more stressful and inconvenient for passengers.

The problem calls for faster and more convenient ways to process passengers efficiently at their point of departure and destination without compromising security.

Finavia and Finnair are committed to offering their customers a world class travel experience. Since a large part of this experience happens at Helsinki Airport, they are constantly exploring new ways to improve the passengers’ journey together.

Finavia & Finnair

What we did

After analyzing the problem with Finnair and Finavia, we identified face recognition as a promising technology with the potential to enhance the customer experience at checkpoints, and improve security and operational efficiency at the same time. We have since co-created two service concepts that utilize it in the airport context.

In early 2017, we deployed a fully functioning proof of concept at Helsinki Airport that allowed pre-enrolled Finnair Platinum and Gold members to check in to their flight at a dedicated face recognition desk. The passengers’ identity and flight information was confirmed by comparing their facial features to a reference photo submitted using a mobile app. Rather than replace customer service agents, the system is designed to augment the employees’ strengths with those of a computer. The purpose of the three-week trial was to gather as much real-world feedback as possible in a short time frame and at a low cost, while creating as little disruption as possible in an environment where taking risks is not an option.

In late 2017, Finnair and Futurice designed a face recognition based info pillar demo for Finnair’s booth at Slush, the largest tech conference in the Nordics. The concept further explored the role of face recognition in air travel by proposing a highly personalized airport info screen setup that displays information relevant to each individual passenger, including flight details, boarding schedule and directions to the gate.

Finavia & Finnair

Why it matters

Biometrics is already rapidly changing how we interact with intelligent systems. Interfaces are moving out of sight, and interactions becoming increasingly effortless for users. As an easy, intuitive and accessible form of interaction, face recognition aligns perfectly with this trend. The best UI is no UI – if the customer is not expected to do anything, it is very hard for them to do anything wrong.

Between the check-in proof of concept and the info screen demo at Slush, approximately 1000 people experienced our biometrics-augmented service concepts.

The check-in trial at Helsinki Airport proved that face recognition can be used to create user-friendly biometrics solutions that enhance the travel experience, even in a high people-flow environment with high security requirements. Feedback showed that users are ready to embrace these services, with 100% of respondents stating they would like to use the service again.

The early adopter crowd that tried out the info pillar demo at Slush was equally excited about the technology and eager to know when it would be available at the airport. The system used emotion recognition as a way to submit feedback on the demo – more than 80% of the users were happy or positively surprised by it.

“Futurice successfully managed Finavia’s proof of concept for identifying airline priority customers with biometrics using very simple simple hardware kit with some of the shelf algorithm fine-tuned by their crew. After this they facilitated a series of workshops with different airport ecosystem stakeholders to map out the current situation and the end goals for biometric enabled access control throughout the passenger’s journey through airport. All of this was a great success!”

- Matti Lehto, Head of Ops Digitalization, Finavia

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