If you’ve ever traveled abroad, you know what it’s like to check obsessively for your passport at every step of your journey. Packing your bag—got your passport? Leaving the house—got your passport? Entering the airport—got your passport? Going through security—GOT YOUR PASSPORT? It’s an age-old traveling proverb, but soon, it might be a phrase as obsolete as “Get off the internet; I need to use the phone.”
Air Canada, Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Montréal-Trudeau International Airport in Montreal and two European airlines announced a new paperless travel pilot project (pardon the pun) at the World Economic Forum Wednesday. The Known Traveller Digital Identity (KTDI) pilot—developed by the governments of Canada and the Netherlands—would put all the data from your passport in your phone so you could travel totally paperless—no passport, no boarding pass.
The idea behind the project is that the identity data commonly found on the microchip in your passport will instead be stored and encrypted on your smartphone which you can manage from your phone. After you’re officially verified by a border agent to join the program, your face becomes your passport and you’ll pass every check point just with facial recognition.
The rest of 2019 would be dedicated to perfecting the technology behind KTDI and the first paperless journeys could take flight between Toronto, Montreal and Amsterdam in early 2020.
This new step toward paperless travel is an effort by governments and the aviation industry to streamline the customs and security process at airports by cutting down on paper, manual processing and all that time it takes you to root around in your bag, just to remember your passport was in your back pocket all along.
There’s obviously still a lot to work out (as anyone who’s ever tried unlocking their phone with facial recognition while looking just a little tired knows) but traveling paperless could lessen headaches for stressed-out parents, forgetful travelers and anyone who always has trouble finding the picture page under pressure.
Unfortunately, it won’t eliminate our awful passport photo problem. Oh well, c’est la vie.