Rail passengers using the Eurostar will be able to use new facial biometric corridor to enable contactless journeys by March 2021.
The walk-through system from biosecurity company iProov will allow passengers to complete ticket checks and border exit processes at St Pancras International station without needing to come into contact with people or hardware.
The concept, already trialled in airports to increase speed and safety and manage immigration, is now being brought to train travel as part of the First of a Kind (FOAK) competition run by Innovate UK and funded by the Department for Transport.
The initiative supports research, development and innovation in the UK rail industry.
Andrew Bud, iProov founder and chief executive, said: “What started off as a project to reduce travel congestion and keep passengers moving is now going to help keep people safe in a pandemic world through social distancing and contactless interaction.
“It’s yet another example of how opt-in facial verification is making life easier and safer for people around the world.”
Ian Campbell, executive chair of Innovate UK, said: “These high quality projects illustrate the appetite of UK organisations to develop new and exciting innovations for rail transport that improve customers’ user experience, that optimise railway efficiency, and are environmentally sustainable.”
How the iProov system works
Passengers planning to travel on Eurostar services would be offered an accelerated pre-boarding option.
Prior to travelling, they would use the Eurostar app to scan their identity documentation before iProoving themselves.
The iProov facial biometric check uses patented controlled illumination to authenticate the identity of the user against the ID document.
As well as checking that the user is the right person, matching the identity portrayed in the passport, the illumination process checks that the user is a real person, rather than a photo, video, or mask, and, uniquely, that the user is authenticating right now.
This protects against large-scale criminal attacks using deepfakes (software to mimic another person’s face digitally).
The passenger would then receive a message confirming that their identity document had been secured and a ticket or passport would not need to be shown again until they reached their destination.
On arrival at St Pancras International, the passenger would enter the contactless travel corridor and proceed in distanced fashion before boarding the train.
A kiosk solution at the station would allow passengers without access to smartphones to complete the same process.