Frictionless, secure air travel is ready for take-off

Learn how Zamna’s blockchain-based Identity Rails are using advanced data privacy to transform how we travel

By Raoul Cooper, VP of Product at Zamna

I recently had the privilege of attending the ICAO Aviation Security and Facilitation Symposium looking at innovation in aviation. Being in a (virtual) room packed  with the brightest minds - users and suppliers included - in the realm of advance passenger data was a big deal to Zamna. Why? Because it’s this very data that will power how the decisions of tomorrow are made, and we see our groundbreaking approach to data privacy, cybersecurity, identity and data management as the cornerstone of this seismic shift.

One of the most obvious themes I gleaned from the event was the  clear hunger for bigger and better data-derived insight, though both the practicalities of collecting this and the dangers of managing personal data remain a significant barrier and must be tackled, head-on.

If you’re storing personal data, you need to stop

The good news is the goals are clear: to provide more effective and efficient ways of identifying travellers, and do more with the data you have while, ideally, storing less of it. As I see it, the challenge can be broken down into five core parts:

  • Ensure accuracy of data and do so earlier
  • Gain insight and make decisions ahead of travel
  • Guarantee data security and honour individual privacy
  • Reduce operational costs at pinch points (airports)
  • Try not to spend any more money

When the Zamna team puts on its collective thinking cap  we see two key drivers: data accuracy and data timeliness. Traditionally, this has created a real headache because you can’t normally ensure accuracy without causing delays elsewhere. How does this manifest itself? Forced document checks at the airport or border control, that’s how. It’s only when a trusted party actually sees the document that they can trust the data and then make a decision. By this point, however, it's usually too late: either there's already a queue  (at check-in, bag drop, or security) or the traveller is loitering at border control with mismatched data. Ergo heterogenous  security checkpoints must now muster the strength to deal with a mass of "parties of interest" as innocent travellers with simple data anomalies are caught up in a cumbersome vetting process.

Avoiding the dreaded mismatch

At Zamna we put in the long hours to both study our clients’ traveler data accuracy  while leveraging our conversations with governments around travel authorisation online applications to conduct detailed analysis. This research has confirmed our findings: one third (yes, that’s 33%) of self-declared passport data contains mistakes! This leads to a myriad of problems, ranging from delays at the airport through to denied boarding. And once you’ve spotted the error, not much can be done to remedy it. That means we’re left with passport data that can’t be trusted and any hopes of deriving insights are consigned to being pipe dreams.

Time lost in the haystack

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Sound final decisions and effective insights are derived at airports and border control all the time. And we remain protected, but at what cost? Time lost in queues, the expense of processing, infrastructure, kiosks and automation, as well as skilled staff sorting through the proverbial haystack. It's an expensive, but nonetheless critical business.

Just imagine travel without the agro

But what if passport data were trustworthy and provably accurate? Then things get interesting and, arguably, pretty exciting. Decisions can be made earlier and with absolute confidence. A traveller can move from a status of “completely unknown” to one of “known and context securely established”. Suddenly you are able to spot the real areas of interest and hone in; this is what we call “reducing the haystack”.

But what’s really game-changing is that the benefits are not solely reserved for the border agents or airlines - it affects us, as travellers, too. We can be safe in the knowledge that, even prior to travel,  our passport and advance travel information are accurate and in order: we are “pre-approved”, so to speak. And this will be of the utmost value to that 33% of folks who make those innocent mistakes. They can uncover their error early, rectify the problem and be fit-to-fly before pulling up at the airport. It inspires confidence and drives improved experiences. Many of the forced checks, scans and swipes in the most common time-critical areas are now superfluous, which means fewer and shorter queues; this is a win for the customer, airline, airport and border control.

Did someone say “Zamna”?

That's all great Raoul, but how do you ensure accuracy? Oh, and can you please not store my passport, travel authorisation and personal data.

This is where we have good news. Zamna's verified passport service imparts the ability to know that the data a customer submits is accurate and verified, even if you have never seen the data set before. On top of that, it can spot the erroneous customer data, helping guide the individual to look at what their travel document actually has printed.

The result? Knowledge of data accuracy for every submission and effective decision making before travel - better for the traveller,  the airline, the airport and critically, better for the aviation security world. And from a sound base of accurate and timely data comes innovation in data science, process and risk management.

Solving the cybersecurity risk head-on

By now you’re probably thinking, “sounds great, what’s the catch?” Well, there isn’t one. Zamna's verified passport service operates without storing personal data, and the company itself is centred around some simple-but-strict golden rules: never store data, never open data, never control data. We enable borders, airlines and airports to persist the good and trusted verifications that occur at the airport today and ensure value is realised.

We achieve this through continuing to  build on the research and tireless work carried out over the last half decade using the best and brightest brains Oxford University has to offer.  These are our Identity Rails:: lightweight, sit alongside current infrastructure and bring value from every customer passport interaction. The result has been multiple patents and plaudits from the cybersecurity community in addition to a wealth of media attention. What we persist in is our Zamna signal - a mathematical outcome, free of personal data.

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