New ‘paperless’ travel pilot to digitise travellers’ identities

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 27 June 2019

Travellers flying between Canada and the Netherlands will soon be able to travel without their passports. On Wednesday 26 June, the World Economic Forum launched a new pilot project involving ‘paperless’ travel between the two countries in partnership with the Canadian and Dutch governments.

Unlike a physical ePassport with the a chip inside the physical travel document, travellers won’t have to carry their passports with them while they’re on the go; instead, the identity data usually stored in their passports or the chips will be safely stored and encrypted via a platform on their cellphones.

According to the Forum, passengers can manage their identity data and consent to share it with border authorities, airlines and other pilot partners in advance. Using biometrics, the data is checked at every leg of the journey until arrival at the destination, without the need for a physical passport.

The pilot, which was launched in Canada at Montreal Airport, is the first platform of its kind to introduce the concept of a traveller-managed digital identity for international paperless travel. The project will be tested throughout the remainder of 2019, and the first proper run from country to country is expected to take place early next year.

Border authorities, airports, technology service providers and airlines have partnered to produce a smooth-running, efficient travel system as part of this project. As the number of international travellers increase, more efficient systems are required to deal with the influx.

‘By 2030, international air travel is expected to rise to 1.8 billion passengers, up 50 per cent from 2016. With current systems, airports cannot keep up,’ says Christoph Wolff, Head of Mobility at the World Economic Forum. ‘This project offers a solution. By using interoperable digital identities, passengers benefit from a holistic system for secure and seamless travel. It will shape the future of aviation and security.’

The technology in question, Known Traveller Digital Identity (KTDI), is based on an interoperable digital identity, linked directly to government-issued identity documents (think ePassports).

KTDI uses cryptography, distributed ledger technology (synchronised digital data shared among institutions like countries) and biometrics to ensure portability and safeguard travellers’ personal data. The system’s security relies on a decentralised ledger platform that all the relevant partners can access. This platform provides an accurate, tamper-proof record of each traveller’s identity data and authorised transactions.

It will be interesting to see how this technology might revolutionise the way we travel in the years to come.

Also read:

South African e-visas to launch in October

Image: Unsplash

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