Blockchain Solutions Applied to Visas and Airports – a Long Wait for All Travelers

Opinion

For those who travel frequently, an increasing part of the modern population, nothing is more frustrating than international transits. For a case study in gross incompetence, inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and sheer time wasting, few models beat a standard airport. On a practical level, long commutes are proven to have quite an adverse effect on health, not to mention the time lost. This is extraordinarily inefficient given the wide variety of blockchain solutions available.

The security screening dilemma

There is an unfortunate dilemma with airport security. On the one hand, we all know on some level that putting luggage through a screener is incredibly primitive and that it doesn’t do much to deter terrorists. We may not have the vernacular or the technical knowledge to express it, but it is more or less obvious that putting millions of bags through a metal detector does not engender confidence in security agencies in 2018. And the ‘model,’ if it can be called that, has not been upgraded in a long time.

There are billions of lost hours and no quantifiable metric on the amount of stress caused due to what is an inefficient process. On the other hand, it is done in the interests of national security, and thus nobody is supposed to complain and must assume the process is as streamlined as it can be.

CNN recently reported that the TSA was considering dropping security screening in smaller airports. However, the Washington Post pointed out that this was unlikely to happen, one of the reasons being politics and emotions. As one emotional senator wrote –

“TSA documents proposing to scrap critical passenger security screenings, without so much as a metal detector in place in some airports, would effectively clear the runway for potential terrorist attacks. It simply boggles the mind to even think that the TSA has plans like this on paper in the first place.”

Unfortunately, even if people had to wait three hours for a metal detector screening, this argument would still hold sway. There is never an analysis of the negative side of security measures, which are vast, as anybody dealing with US security departments can attest. And there is no method to evaluate the cost of customer dissatisfaction, the cost of implementing the procedures, the cost to the airline, and the cost of lost hours.

As per the Washington Post, most of the screening measures only act to make people feel safer, with no material benefit. Most of it is security theater. The effectiveness of airport screening is highly questionable regarding its benefits, but there is little doubt as to the disastrous and verified effects on mental and emotional wellbeing. As reported in CNN and other outlets, real-time tests demonstrate that the TSA has a 5% chance of finding a gun or explosive, despite an invasive approach to screening. But any cost or failure rate is acceptable to justify an imagined attack.

Vitalik Buterin’s thoughts on TSA screening

Speaking on the CNN report that the TSA was dropping screening, Vitalik Buterin weighed in with his opinion

“As a frequent traveler (> 10^6 km), this is EXCELLENT. It’s about time we start questioning the totalitarian police states in our own airports, especially in small airports/planes where stakes are smaller and security is a huge part of total transit time.

The time lost from pre-flight delays in airports is not the average time going through the procedure and waiting in lines, it’s the maximum time. If it takes 10 min 90% of the time, and 40 min 10% of the time, people need to arrive >40 min in advance to avoid missing flights.

That said, the fact that the internal cost-benefit analysis seems to focus on $115m cost savings, and not the huge cost to people’s time does disappoint me. Time costs and stress matter too!”

Triple checking passports and going through multiple screenings is sheer incompetence in the digital age. Driverless cars. Pilotless planes. An airport that manually checks passports and tickets numerous times while strip searching random individuals, getting individuals to sign physical forms and wait in bottlenecks.

Given that the TSA missed 95% of guns and bombs, surely an identity system built on DLT is a better use of funds. USD 7 billion is a lot of money to spend on a method that has been proven to be both incredibly ineffective at its stated goal and incredibly stressful for civilians.

Pointless paperwork & blockchain solutions

It is difficult to comprehend how people have to queue for hours in every airport and fill up physical forms for leaving and departing a country, in the modern age. And it is hard to understand why individuals in specific regions have to travel to an immigration office, wait in line, fill out physical forms with physical pens, and give them to a bureaucrat, for a month’s extension. The procedure may then have to be repeated the next month.

Replicating data, over, and over, and over, and over, every time a country is entered and departed, and every time a visa needs an extension. By millions of individuals each year. And for all the pointless over-replication. A human official needs to be paid to store and verify it, typically with taxpayer money paid by the person forced to over-replicate.

It does not make sense with the available technology and the available blockchain solutions. The decentralized identity should be verifiable from a home computer or mobile, the data then validated using various blockchain solutions. Maximum security, zero hassle. Bags could have temporary hardware chips for tracking on the blockchain to prevent loss. A similar service is currently provided by Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) company, VeChain Thor.

The forms could be filled in online before the flight. All passports can be scanned or faces checked with recognition technology. Check-in beforehand on your computer and drop your bag on a conveyor belt upon airport arrival. This is the power of algorithms and DLT.

The long wait times and the ridiculous visa and transit processes are archaic and need to be removed. A retinal scan, fingerprint, or passport swipe should contain the corresponding info and using blockchain solutions, the potential for data manipulation could be reduced to as close to zero as possible.

For frequent travelers, blockchain solutions applied to the air and visa industry is eagerly awaited, with no significant barriers except a lack of imagination. But it applies to all who travel. Decentralized digital identities and stress-free travel are on the way. The big question is when, and there are already a lot of customers waiting in line for this long-awaited innovation.

Digital Nomad with an interest in Zen and Blockchain technology.

Law graduate with 3 years experience as a consultant in the capital markets industry and 4 years experience freelancing on UpWork as a Creative Writer.

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