"We will stop relying on one-off checks for physical documents, and instead have a seamless passenger security process from check-in to boarding."
Irra Ariella Khi is the CEO and co-founder of VChain Technology. The company is backed by European seed fund, Seedcamp; start-up investors, Force Over Mass Capital; cybersecurity accelerator, CyLon; tech and digital investors, London Co-Investment Fund; and the parent company of British Airways, International Airlines Group (IAG) – VChain's first commercial client.
Irra speaks nine languages, has a First Class Master’s from Oxford University, multiple patents for VChain, and has co-founded three other start-ups involved in technology, media and data industries. Living between London and the airports she works with, Irra is focused on delivering the VChain solution to help improve the assessment of threats to IAG’s 100 million passengers a year and beyond – from airlines in EMEA, to Asia and the US.
For this week’s 5 minutes with…, Irra speaks with Dave Songer about whyVChain should be the way forward for airport security, the efficiency and safety improvements the technology would bring and why she thinks a change in job title may be required.
Dave Songer (DS): It’s fantastic to have you in this week’s 5 minutes with… Can you begin by telling us a little about VChain?
Irra Ariella Khi (IAK): VChain (@VchainTech) began when my co-founder, Alexander Gorelik, and I wrote the first patent for the underlying technology in 2015. As a former air cadet, I have always loved aviation, while Alex’s first job at the age of 17 was software developer for the largest railway company in Europe. More recently, we re-connected at the Cyber Tech Israel conference, over our mutual obsessions with cyber security and relentless focus on ‘privacy by design’.
Alex started coding VChain on the beach in Bali, so I knew we were onto something when he chose to swap the beach for UK weather and agreed to buildVChain together on a full-time basis. I joke that my role as CEO stands for 'Cash Extraction Officer' – IP-heavy businesses are not cheap! With two patents under our belts, a third on the way, and a growing team of elite blockchain developers, we are leading the way in combining AI and machine learnings with proprietary analytics. I'd say that, thanks to both our roles,VChain has arguably created the first working-use case for passenger identity on blockchain for aviation.
(DS): What is the problem that VChain is solving in aviation?
(IAK): Currently, 100% of air passengers are screened in the same way for security, yet seemingly every day we see more news of incidents.VChain software fixes that in two ways:
1) helping airlines recognise recurring issues with passengers and spot potential threats
2) automating passenger identity, to reduce processes at airport.
Faster security and fewer processes mean both fewer and shorter queues. VChain reduces the need to check passenger IDs by around 90%, enabling smoother check-ins and safer airports (if you were an attacker, would you choose to target a queue with two people or 200?)
It shows VChain solves problems and this year has won several industry awards in recognition of that:
- International Airlines Group (VChain investors and clients)
- Air France-KLM (VChain won Viva Tech challenge)
- Aviation Festival Europe (VChain won the Innovation Competition).
(DS): What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?
(IAK): Tailoring our processes and governance for each aviation client, in order to meet the increasing need for cybersecurity as part of big data passenger processing, with frictionless staged implementation.
(DS): What will be some of the biggest differences between transportation security now and in ten years’ time?
(IAK): We will stop relying on one-off checks for physical documents, and instead have a seamless passenger security process from check-in to boarding, with digital footprint and biometrics playing a huge role.
(DS): How can transport operators running separate operations collaborate more to improve security?
(IAK): Currently, carriers are unable to share warnings about passengers and are relying on one-off document checks, even for connecting flights in time-critical windows. Collaborating on passenger data is impossible for two reasons:
1) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and sensitivity of personal data
2) cyber security breach in sharing or sending said data.
With VChain, anyone connected to the platform can safely share and verify passenger data and gain security insights. We have created the first step towards an industry trust framework, in order to deliver the International Air Transport Association’s vision for One Identity.
(DS): How do you strike the balance between creating the most secure possible journey for passengers while maintaining the best possible experience?
(IAK): The individual passenger shouldn’t be aware of back office processes: our software layer is like invisible magic, connecting data sets between airlines so a passenger can check in for one or 10 connecting flights across different airlines around the world. We produced the below three-minute video with British Airways and Heathrow Airport to show the difference between the current passenger journey and the seamless experience available on VChain.
Using VChain, customers have a seamless experience and ensures they sail through the airports without having to be stopped by staff to check their ID documents. The security is maintained and enhanced, with Vchain having been independently tested by Trustwave and Spiderlabs, and while it isn’t ‘unhackable’ it would take someone between one and 10 million years to break into just one passenger ID data set.
(DS): Blockchain has become quite a buzzword since its inception and initial use in the bitcoin currency and it’s been interesting to see its transition into other industries. How do you see its application in transportation developing?
(IAK): Blockchain is a great tool for the right use case: it’s the best way to manage data records and to connect to previously separate data from silos. The aviation industry, in particular, relies on many silos of independent data, and VChain uses blockchain as an enabling layer to connect these and extract value for airlines.
(DS): Thanks very much for sharing your experience with us, Irra. Transport Security World wishes VChain all the best for the future.
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