Henk van derSwan, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Canada, tests the KTDI system for the first time in a public setting. Image: Ari Magnusson

APEX Media attended the launch event for a pilot scheme that will allow passengers to fly between international destinations without having to present their passport.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) and the governments of Canada and the Netherlands have launched a pilot project for paperless travel on flights between the two countries. The Known Traveller Digital Identity (KTDI) initiative was revealed on June 26 at Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) and is the first platform to use a traveler-managed identity for paperless international air travel.

The blockchain-based technology aims to offer passengers a frictionless travel experience, while allowing them to have more control over personal data. It works by securely storing and encrypting the identity data contained on chips inside passports on a passengers’ mobile device. Passengers can then manage their identity data and consent to share it with border authorities, airlines or other pilot partners in advance.

Henk van derSwan, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Canada, performed a live demonstration of how KTDI works. Image: Ari Magnusson

Using biometric facial recognition, the data can then be verified at every point of a journey without the need to present a physical passport. Over time, passengers will establish a “known traveler status” by accumulating “attestations,” or claims that have been proven and declared by trusted partners, such as border agencies and recognized airlines. The hope is that it will result in a reusable digital identity that will streamline a traveler’s interactions with governments, airlines and other partners.

Michael Keenan, Canada’s Deputy Minister of Transport. Image: Ari Magnusson

“Digging around for the passport and flipping it open is simply not going to meet the challenges of tomorrow.” – Michael Keen, Transport Canada

“Around the world, the aviation industry is experiencing unprecedented growth and breaking passenger records every year. Meanwhile, airport operators, airlines, governments, border agencies are struggling to maintain service and deal with growth,” said Michael Keenan, Canada’s Deputy Minister of Transport. “Digging around for the passport and flipping it open is simply not going to meet the challenges of tomorrow.”

The WEF envisions that the initial KTDI pilot could include up to 10,00 end-to-end passenger trips. It will begin in early 2020 on flights from both YUL and Toronto Pearson International Airport to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Passenger participation will be free of cost and by invitation only. However, it will be limited to Canadian and Dutch citizens over the age of 18 and who are eligible for entry to the destination country.

“It’ll just take time for everyone to get comfortable.” – Dave Treat, Accenture

But will the average passenger be comfortable using a system like this?  “With each pilot and each initial rollout, with the incredible amount of testing we’re doing around it, both user testing, penetration testing and security testing, it’ll just take time for everyone to get comfortable,” Dave Treat, managing director and co-lead of Accenture’s Blockchain Business and program advisor for the WEP’s KTDI initiative told APEX Media. “When we take a step back and look at where we’re headed, I think it’s very commonly accepted that the ability to use the true uniqueness of our biometrics is critically important in an overall security framework.”

He said similar paperless travel projects in other parts of the world are also now rallying around the same biometric and blockchain standards that are starting to crystallize. “What we’re seeing is that we’re defining a specification, a pattern that we want to be used by multiple different parties. As long as we build towards that same pattern and spec, then it’ll all be interoperable.”

Air Canada, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, YUL Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol are also partners in the KTDI project, while Vision Box and Idemia serve as technology component service providers.