What is likely to become the new era of airport security began this week at Atlanta and Denver airports, where the Transportation Security Administration is real-world testing a new way to confirm travelers’ identities.
According to a TSA statement:
TSA is conducting a proof of concept demonstration to evaluate the operational and security impact of using biometrics to verify passengers’ identities using their fingerprints. The biometric authentication technology enables a traveler’s fingerprints to serve as both a boarding pass and identity document.
In other words, a traveler’s fingerprints will take the place of his boarding pass and personal identification, making for security checks that are both faster and more secure.
So, where does the TSA get fingerprints to compare against those of travelers passing through security checkpoints? To begin with, the new identity-verification system will only be available to flyers who have submitted their fingerprints as part of the process of enrolling in the PreCheck trusted-traveler program.
In the trial phase, PreCheck travelers can volunteer to have their identities matched to their fingerprints, or not; they will still be subject to normal screening, including a check of their boarding pass and identity document.
The TSA was mum on the projected timing of a wider roll-out of the technology. In the meantime, the prospect of an even speedier route through security is yet another reason to invest $85 for a five-year PreCheck membership.
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.