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How Biometric Technology is Making Airports in South America Safer

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses around the globe rushed to find a solution to keep their employees safe and healthy. Leading the charge among airport services companies was Talma, an airport services company in Latin America which provides ground assistance services, passenger services, aircraft maintenance, and training services across more than 280,000 flights annually.

With various passenger touchpoints and crucial air cargo handling responsibilities, ensuring the health of Talma’s employees was paramount to keeping air passengers safe and cargo deliveries running on schedule.

Talma’s chief technology officer, Alejandro López Gómez, recognized the severe threat COVID-19 posed to his staff and passengers from the outset of the pandemic, noting that “an outbreak among our employees not only could have endangered the thousands of passengers traveling through the many airports Talma serves, but would also severely delay flights with workers forced to quarantine.”

As a result, Talma sought to improve its biometric security measures across its airport locations, looking for solutions that could be easily integrated into its employee management procedures while providing powerful pandemic control measures. Talma particularly wanted to verify its employees were wearing masks properly and accurately checking their temperatures upon entry.

In addition to boosting biometric security, Talma is consistently searching for new technologies to increase efficiency across its employee management processes.

“We integrate the adoption of new technologies into our workflow to further streamline our internal processes and meet the continually increasing pace of travel,” Gómez notes.

With 1,700 employees working day and night to keep airports running across Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia, consistently improving its employee management system is imperative to the company’s continued expansion, especially during the pandemic. To overcome the health and personnel management challenges of social distancing regulations, Talma partnered with CyberLink to integrate the company’s FaceMe AI facial recognition engine for its internal operations.

We integrate the adoption of new technologies into our workflow to further streamline our internal processes and meet the continually increasing pace of travel.

The Solution

Based on the AI capabilities of its legacy multimedia software, CyberLink’s FaceMe is one of the most flexible and accurate biometric facial recognition engines in the world. It achieved a 99.8 percent accuracy rate in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s VISABORDER test.

Talma chose to integrate FaceMe Health, which combines the FaceMe Software Development Kit (SDK) with a thermal camera to detect if a person is wearing a mask, if he or she is wearing it properly, and to check body temperatures, all while conducting facial recognition of individuals.

Even when someone is wearing a mask, FaceMe Health identifies individuals with an accuracy rate of up to 97 percent. It identifies spoofing (the act of using a disguise or even images to pose as someone else) and improper use of face coverings, while detecting masks of different shapes or materials—even if someone is not looking straight into the camera. The software is able to accomplish this because it uses facial vectors not usually covered up by masks, namely those between the eyes.

With its highly accurate identity verification capabilities, FaceMe is ideal for settings in which many employees are clocking in and out at different times, such as a busy airport. It can be connected to multiple cameras, and through video management system (VMS) software as well, to provide enhanced security across a company’s entire physical space. The software works on the edge, meaning that it does not store any biometric information, but rather compares a small, encrypted template of the subject’s biometric information with a secure database’s encrypted templates hosted on a remote server, resulting in a secure operation completed within milliseconds.

Since mid-2020, Talma has implemented FaceMe Health in seven of its facilities across Colombia. The tech is now being used in the company’s offices in Medellin, Cali, Cartagena, Bogota, Pereira, Santa Marta, and San Andres for both virus mitigation and employee management. To date, 1,190 people have opted into and use FaceMe in Talma’s facilities—that’s roughly 70 percent of Talma’s total employee head count.

Talma has streamlined the implementation of FaceMe by choosing to program the camera and software in the company’s corporate offices and by installing the camera that will contain FaceMe into pre-determined and pre-prepared locations in each facility.

“What initially attracted my team to FaceMe was its ease of installation,” Gómez explains, “as operations-driven tech people, we developed an even more streamlined process that has saved Talma even more time and money, reducing workflow disruption and any possible delays in software configuration onsite.”

The Results

With many employees handling hundreds of passengers’ belongings a day, it is imperative that Talma reduce the risk of virus transmission and positive cases on site. With FaceMe installed at key checkpoints across seven of the company’s locations, Talma can monitor individual employees’ temperatures instantly and accurately as soon as they enter the site, improving its health protocols to achieve an international biosecurity certification. If an employee with a higher temperature is detected, FaceMe Health lets operators know through an instantaneous text message, further securing the health of Talma’s workforce.

Beyond virus mitigation, Talma also uses FaceMe for its employee sign-in process, matching in and out readings from FaceMe with its own employee timetables to improve its shift compliance rate over 25 percent to 96.2 percent since October 2020. This, in turn, has enabled more correct payments to workers, boosting back-end efficiency and creating a more seamless employee experience. Ultimately, FaceMe has helped Talma reduce its COVID-19 positivity rate significantly among its employees.

“As the leading airport services company in Latin America, we are proud to be able to implement cutting-edge biometric technology to maintain the highest standards of service throughout the pandemic,” Gómez notes. “CyberLink’s FaceMe Health solution not only helps us achieve airtight biometric security and employee management across multiple locations, it has also redefined our consideration of the use of biometric technology within our industry. Even when COVID-19 concerns are a thing of the past, we’ll continue to use this powerful facial recognition solution to make our workplace healthier and more efficient.”

Richard Carriere is senior vice president global marketing and general manager, US, CyberLink.