Data-sharing and technology developments are among the ways to boost security at international borders, according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) expert.
In order to deal with the issues posed by increased passenger numbers, the WEF has been working on the concept of travel facilitation – that is, making it easier for international travellers to pass through airports and land borders.
The WEF’s work comes, not only on the back of increasing global passenger numbers, but also on changes that are reshaping the industry.
In a blog, John Moavenzadeh, head of mobility industries and system initiative at the WEF, points to two significant changes that he says have reshaped and accelerated the transformation of the sector.
The first he says is the proliferation of “fourth industrial revolution technologies”, such as facial, iris, and fingerprint, which he says can “profoundly” reshape the future travel system.
The second is the reshaping of the global security landscape, highlighting recent incidents such as the 2016 attack in Brussels and the Las Vegas shootings last October.
In order to design a system that might meet future challenges of the global travel system, the WEF has developed the ‘Known Traveller Digital Identity’ (KTDI) concept.
It looks at a number of ideas, among them is the idea of passengers voluntarily sharing more data.
While governments require travellers to share some data, such as name, date of birth, passport number, and so forth, the WEF posed the question: ‘What if passengers could voluntarily share more data?’ Would this lead to better security?
The KTDI also looked at the concept of the distributed ledger, such as blockchain, which could offers a means for a trusted third party to verify which hotel a person is staying at or where he or she works.
“A distributed ledger offers a means to instil trust in the travel system,” Mr Moavenzadeh says.
In addition, Mr Moavenzadeh says that multiple systems in the travel sector, such as hotels, airlines, immigration authorities, need to exchange data, which requires complete understanding between their systems as a design principle.
While he notes that a number of technology companies are building impressive solutions for the travel system, he suggests that all firms designing such solutions should be able to participate in the implementation of a globally-scalable KTDI.
“Personally, I would be happy to share my entire travel, employment, residential history with immigration and border authorities if I thought it would get me through the airport and onto my destination faster,” Mr Moavenzadeh said.
“Even better, if my data can be authenticated through distributed ledger technology, then we have taken a leap forward in creating a more trustworthy system.” Privacy advocates and many individuals are likely to baulk at that level of data sharing, however.
In 2017, there were 1.32 billion international arrivals globally, an increase of 7pc on 2016, and the highest rate of growth in seven years, according to the World Tourism Organisation. The figure is expected to pass two billion by 2030 – something the WEF says today’s travel system will not be able to accommodate.