Double Facial Recognition Launches in Real-Time

TSA CAT2 real time photo comparison in Denver
Airport security screening
Denver (Vax Before Travel)

As the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continues deploying innovative technologies in Digital ID, air travelers are enjoying safer and more effortless screening experiences.

For example, catching a flight at Denver's international airport (DEN) requires a new, real-time photo comparison of the traveler.

The TSA recently announced the next generation of Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) verifies the traveler's photo on the credential against the in-person, real-time image.

While first-generation CAT units were designed to scan a traveler's photo identification and confirm the traveler's identity and flight details, the new CAT units, referred to as CAT-2, are also equipped with a camera that captures a real-time photo of the traveler.

Once the CAT-2 confirms the match, a TSA officer verifies it, and the traveler can proceed to security screening without ever exchanging a boarding pass.

The TSA says that photos captured by CAT units are never stored or used for any purpose other than immediate identity verification.

"Identity verification of every traveler before flying is a key step in the security screening process. TSA embraces the use of this type of technology to enhance security and increase the efficiency of our operation," said TSA Federal Security Director for Colorado Larry Nau in a press release on November 18, 2022.

"We are grateful for our partners locally who have been key in bringing this capability to DEN and for the investment TSA made in the security operations at DEN."

As an added convenience, the CAT-2 units at DEN are equipped with readers that allow travelers to use state-issued digital driver licenses or digital identification cards for TSA identity verification purposes.

There are currently five CAT-2 units with digital readers in use at DEN and 21 first-generation CAT units at each of the three DEN security checkpoints.

Earlier this year, Arizona and Maryland began offering the same capability to their residents who have a current, valid state-issued driver's license or photo ID.

Any traveler with a state-issued digital ID in Apple Wallet can tap their iPhone or Apple Watch on a CAT-2 digital reader instead of providing a physical photo ID for identity verification.

Travelers who do not wish to participate in the facial matching process can opt-out in favor of an alternative identity verification process. 

These TSA enhancements are offered just in time.

TSA officials expect travel to return to near pre-pandemic passenger levels during the Thanksgiving holiday, which runs through November 27, 2022.

Thanksgiving time has historically seen the most significant increase in the number of travelers coming through TSA security checkpoints during the year, and this year is expected to continue that trend.

As of November 22, 2022, TSA data indicates traveler screening is about 97% compared to 2019.

Vax-Before-Travel publishes fact-checked, research-based travel news manually curated for mobile readers.

Article by
Donald Hackett