Biometrics and facial recognition, rather than standing in notoriously long queues, are on the cards for passengers at South African airports as Acsa drives the digitisation of its airports.
Acsa CIO, Mthokozisi Mncwabe has identified the improvement of passenger experience, and the modernisation of the airport environment and Acsa’s operational processes as a core strategic focus for the business. Robotics and AI will be a part of this modernisation project.
The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is coming along on the journey – border control will be one of the areas that will be addressed, and e-gates are the ultimate goal.
This will be a relief to passengers and agents alike. The number of manned passport control booths at both OR Tambo and Cape Town at certain times, for both departing and arriving passengers, have frequently come in for heavy criticism by every sector.
Earlier this year, Mncwabe told a Public Sector ICT forum that Acsa was looking to invest R100 million on the project, and it wants to be among the first African airport operators to provide walk-through digital border gates.
Exactly when airport border gates will be converted to e-gates has not yet been revealed, but insiders believe it could be as soon as next year.
Mncwabe said the digitisation of Acsa airports also incorporated the use of robotics to deliver retail, food and beverage services at airports.
Another project in progress by Acsa is the development of a R150m initiative, along with Microsoft, to create “a personalised customer experience” – ie, a single, AI-informed retail platform on which various services such as flights, rental cars and accommodation can be booked by passengers.