TSA staff at JFK International Airport are now using credential authentication technology to improve checkpoint screening capabilities 

New technology that confirms the validity of a traveller’s identification (ID) and confirms their flight information in real time is now in use at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoints at New York’s JFK International Airport.

This deployment is the latest generation of Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) to verify the identity of travellers. First-generation CAT units are designed to scan a traveller’s photo identification, confirm the traveller’s identity as well as their flight details. The new CAT units, referred to as CAT-2, have the same capabilities, but are also equipped with a camera that captures a real-time photo of the traveller.

CAT-2 compares the traveller’s photo on the ID against the in-person, real-time photo. Once the CAT-2 confirms the match, a TSA officer verifies and the traveller can proceed through the checkpoint, without ever exchanging a boarding pass. The photo is then deleted.

The CAT-2 units are equipped with cameras on tablets and are used to match the face of the person standing at the checkpoint with the face that appears on the traveller’s ID such as the person’s driver’s license or passport. The technology enhances detection capabilities for identifying fraudulent documents at the security checkpoint. The photos are not saved and are only used to match the person standing at the travel document checking podium with the photo on the ID that is being presented.

“Identity verification of every traveller prior to flying is a key step in the security screening process,” said John Essig, TSA’s federal security director for the airport. “This technology enhances detection capabilities for identifying fraudulent IDs such as driver’s licenses and passports at a checkpoint and it increases efficiency by automatically verifying a passenger’s identification. We just want to ensure that you are who you say you are.” 

As an additional feature, the unit is touchless meaning that the passengers insert their ID and do not have to hand it to a TSA officer. Thus the units reduce touchpoints and speed the process. Travelers insert their ID, look at the camera and if the ID is validated, the traveller then proceeds into the checkpoint. Even with TSA’s use of these units, travellers still need to check-in with their airline in advance and bring their boarding pass to their gate to show the airline representative before boarding their flight.

“This latest technology helps ensure that we know who is boarding flights,” Essig said. “Credential authentication plays an important role in passenger identity verification. It improves a TSA officer’s ability to validate a traveller’s photo identification while also identifying any inconsistencies associated with fraudulent travel documents.”

The system also confirms the passenger’s flight status by verifying that the individual is ticketed to fly out of an airport on that same day.

CAT-2 units have what is referred to as a “library” of IDs programmed into them that allow the technology to authenticate more than 2,500 different types of IDs including passports, military common access cards, Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler ID cards, uniformed services ID cards, permanent resident cards, US visas and driver’s licenses and photo IDs issued by state motor vehicle departments.

Photos captured by CAT-2 units are never stored or used for any other purpose than immediate identity verification. Travellers who do not wish to participate in the facial matching process can opt out in favour of an alternative identity verification process.

The CAT-2 units are equipped with cameras on tablets
The CAT-2 units are equipped with cameras on tablets TSA