The airport as a climate-neutral security complex with a feel-good factor?

Why future scenarios for airports must overcome many contradictions. An interview with DESKO founder and Managing Director Werner Zahn.

Anyone thinking about the future of airports has good reason to differentiate between visions that were developed before and after coronavirus. Pre-pandemic concepts seem almost out of date with the knowledge of the past three years, because the dimensions and devastating effects of such an event were simply impossible to predict. The identity crisis that airports were plunged into required new approaches. Concepts that, in addition to the familiar trigger points of "sustainability" and "technological transformation", also explored the topics of "security" and "travel experience" in a new way. The field of tension for airports and operators is huge. In some cases, the ambitious goals also seem to contradict each other: How can a place that is expected to provide maximum security also be an oasis of relaxation and (travel) enjoyment - and as climate-neutral as possible?

We spoke to Werner Zahn about these issues. The founder and Managing Director of DESKO has known the industry for more than 30 years. DESKO's renowned ID card scanners can be found at almost every airport worldwide.

What do you currently consider to be the biggest challenges for airports?

Airports are confronted with several challenges simultaneously: On the one hand, the passenger experience at the airport should be made as pleasant as possible for travelers. On the other hand, the increasing security needs of passengers and the economic interests of airlines must also be taken into account. New, contactless technologies for passenger identification, such as facial recognition, increase the comfort and efficiency of the passenger journey. At the same time, a breakdown can have a massive impact on processes and lead to long waiting times for travelers. The result is dissatisfaction and uncertainty. The risks of centralized technology must therefore be considered during the technological transformation.

In addition, the more distance criminals have from the verifying authority, the lower the inhibition threshold for identity fraud – and the opportunities to use AI for deep fakes. In other words, face-to-face identity verification by uniformed, trained staff still creates stress, which leads to mistakes on the part of the criminals. Anonymous enrollment at home in front of a webcam or via cell phone, however, opens up significantly more scope for criminal energy. And that is not even mentioning the issue of sustainability.

Let’s stick to the subject of safety. As a manufacturer of safety-relevant products, to what extent do you see yourselves as responsible?

We take this matter very seriously. Our products allow us to make identity verification and data transfer as convenient and secure as possible for travelers and employees. DESKO scanners meet the security requirements and concepts of all countries. Every day, 500,000 of our devices are in use worldwide. All feedback from the field goes directly into our product development. Let’s take the DESKO PENTA scanner as an example. Everyone in the industry knows “the PENTA”. This is due to its versatility. The big advantage is that it can be used at many touchpoints. The scanner is equally suitable for check-in, ID checks or for usage at the boarding gate. It also performs so-called “cross-checks”, as required in the UK. This means that the device not only reads the boarding pass, but also compares its data with that of the passport. This creates an additional level of security for passengers.

Decision-making processes yesterday and today: What has changed in airport equipping?

The decision-making processes regarding the equipment have not changed significantly. But the requirements for the products have changed. Our scanners and readers must deliver flawless read results from the machine-readable zone of ID documents in a matter of seconds using OCR, i.e. Optical Character Recognition. This is not a problem for our devices – OCR is our core competence and the reason for our strong market position. Meanwhile, this technology has become established. The reading process is very fast and easy for the user to implement. In addition, the read rate of our devices is almost 100%, which demonstrates above-average reliability.

Given these high security standards, how can airports become a feel-good place?

The airport must once again become a desirable place to stay for passengers and their companions. A place of longing that maximizes the anticipation of travel and offers business travelers the comfort they need. This is achieved through a well-designed infrastructure and unique services. A personalized, seamless travel experience creates trust and appreciation. Special services, such as the option of checking in at home or having luggage collected, are also appreciated by passengers.

A good example is Munich Airport, which has won several awards for its first-class concept. It has succeeded in combining high security and technology standards – think of the use of biometrics in Terminal 2 – with a passenger-friendly and inviting atmosphere that consistently receives top ratings from travelers from all over the world.

For federal police, this area is a large part of the training curriculum. In the state police forces and the customs administration, on the other hand, there is still a lot of catching up to do on the subject of document checks. Efficient training and regular advanced training by qualified "multipliers", i.e. document advisors, are therefore essential.

Finally, a word about “sustainable travel”. Passengers’ expectations have also risen significantly in this area.

There are examples worldwide of how clever concepts can reduce the ecological footprint. These range from energy-efficient infrastructure to electric vehicle fleets. Terminal 2 at San Francisco Airport is an outstanding example of this: certified building architecture, energy-saving ventilation, reuse of wastewater, exclusively regional food and so on. Changi and Oslo also impress with comparable concepts. Munich is pursuing a “net zero” target and wants to leave no emissions behind from 2035.

Thank you very much for the interview, Mr Zahn.


Subscribe now!

We inform you regularly & free of charge about innovations and product news.

The airport as a climate-neutral security complex with a feel-good factor?