The Canadian government is set to trial the Known Traveller Digital Identity concept, a system which aims to use Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technology, including blockchain, cryptography and mobile devices to improve the safety of travel.

The concept, which was published in a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), involves a ‘traveller-centric’ approach, allowing border controls to access large amounts of data on passengers ‘without the need to have personal data stored in one central database’.

With cross-border travel predicted to grow by 50% over the next decade, and international arrivals increasing to 1.8 billion by 2030, the WEF has been eager to implement its concept, with the Canadian government showing interest. Canadian minister of transport Marc Garneau commented that ‘technological advancements provide opportunities to make security for air travel more efficient while improving the traveller experience.’

The system aims to take advantage of four 4IR technologies: blockchain technology, which enables individuals to trust the network without the control of a central authority; cryptography, which provides the necessary security in the sharing of information; biometrics, which ensure appropriate use of identity information; and mobile devices, which allow passengers to carry their digital identity information with them.

Travellers will be responsible for providing their own information to bodies such as border control agencies and hotels, with biometric identification being used to verify the information given. As a traveller continues to provide verified information about themselves, they will build a trusted ‘Known Traveller’ status. This status can be further improved by interacting with ‘trusted entities’, of which the report provides schools and post offices as examples, making individuals responsible for the trustworthiness of their information.

The system also allows passengers easier access to the right to be forgotten; as of 2018, individuals within the EU are able to request the deletion or removal of personal data if there is no ‘compelling reason’ for it to be kept. The Known Traveller concept makes passengers responsible for providing information, rather than border security responsible for extracting information, so it will be easier for travellers to exercise this right.

The report further identifies several ‘pain points’ involved in cross-border channel, highlighting visa applications, booking flights and security protocols as ‘presenting the most aggravation’. The use of verified and decentralised data could alleviate problems regarding the inconsistent management of identity information and confusion over different departure gate policies in different countries, which the report identifies as key pain points for travellers.

Adopting 4IR technology is also considered to be of considerable economic benefit. The report says that between 2016 and 2025, there is a total of $150 billion of ‘value at stake’ regarding 4IR technology, including $20 billion worth of time and cost savings to customers, and $120 billion in similar savings for society as a whole and the environment. A further $10 billion is considered at stake in regards to safety and security.

“This Known Traveller Digital Identity concept is founded on the principle that an individual traveller has control over the use of their own identity and its components,” reads the foreword to the WEF’s report.

“Together, the World Economic Forum and Accenture, collaborating on Shaping the Future of Security in Travel, hope that this report and the prototype will gain momentum, encouraging public and private parties to pilot and scale this concept in the coming year.”