In huge news coming out of the airports realm this week (31st January 2024), Amadeus agreed to part with €320 million to acquire biometrics solutions provider, Vision-Box. In this piece, we explore how each entity perfectly complements one another and how the coming together of these two Iberian companies should hasten the adoption of the holy grail: the seamless passenger journey.
For Amadeus, the primary attraction is, without doubt, Vision-Box’s leading position and expertise in the border control space where it claims to have a greater than 30% share of the market. Indeed, Valour Consultancy’s new Smart Airports Tracker service – which provides a comprehensive view of self-service and automation in airports – puts its share of the ABC eGate market at 33%. Vision-Box also boasts a sizeable installed base of kiosks, desktop units and totems used by immigration officials at busy land, sea and air borders throughout the world.
Whilst Amadeus has long harboured ambitions to ensure its biometric solutions are integrated into every passenger touchpoint, border control has always been the missing piece of the puzzle. As an example, 2021 saw the company and its partner, NEC, roll out an end-to-end biometric experience at Narita Airport in Japan, enabling seamless passage at check-in kiosks, bag drop units, pre-security gates and self-boarding gates. However, Narita’s ABC eGates are provided by Panasonic and sit separate to the otherwise integrated nature of a passenger’s journey through the airport. The tie-up with Vision-Box, therefore, allows it to finally present a true seamless end-to-end solution and new airports being built in India and Australia could be among the first beneficiaries of the tie-up with Amadeus already signed up to “co-create the digital passenger experience of the future”.
What’s more, Vision-Box is among the most experienced innovators in the industry when it comes to One ID style passage through airports having been involved in numerous pilots and rollouts over recent years. A particularly noteworthy deployment involves Aruba airport, Aruba Government, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Amsterdam Schiphol airport, which have worked with Vision-Box since 2015 to offer the first tangible One ID style single token passenger journey across check-in, bag-drop, border control and boarding. Since then, the company has gone on to deploy similar, yet large scale, programmes at Schiphol, Gatwick, Bangalore, Carrasco, Dubai and, more recently, in Portuguese airports. And in 2023, the government of Curaçao chose Vision-Box and Airside (in which Amadeus was an investor) to create the world’s first mobile-based, pre-enrolment border crossing system, allowing travellers to send their verified information ahead of them physically crossing the border itself.
For Vision-Box, there is huge appeal in working with Amadeus, a household name in the travel industry for more than 30 years and a company with an array of airline and airport relationships matched by few. The acquisition massively expands Vision-Box’s geographic footprint, particularly in Asia-Pacific where its presence is comparatively limited. Amadeus, for its part, gains more exposure to the Latin American market, where Vision-Box is active in many countries throughout the region. The deal also allows Vision-Box to lean on a much larger aftersales service and support network – a key consideration for airports when procuring any new solution and looking to avoid/minimise touchpoint-related delays and disruption. Potentially, Amadeus’s larger R&D resources combined with Vision-Box’s expertise will aid development and innovation of improved biometric and identity management solutions across airport and border applications.
Another way in which the two companies dovetail quite nicely is in bag drop. While Vision-Box has almost no involvement in this market, Amadeus, by virtue of the 2019 purchase of ICM Airport Technics, is the number one player by share of installed units. And according to our 2021 report on the Seamless Passenger Journey in Smart Airports, integration of biometrics into self bag drop units will grow more quickly than any other touchpoint over the next few years with penetration set to exceed 50% by 2030. That’s up from about 28% today.
With the deal subject to customary regulatory approval (which we do not see as a major hurdle) and not set to conclude until the middle of this year, it will be some time before we get to see how Amadeus’s strategy evolves and what becomes of known areas of overlap like check-in. While the firm becomes a more vertically integrated entity that can act as a one-stop shop for customers looking to deploy seamless experiences, it is unlikely to abandon the partnership approach going forward. Though there are airlines, airports and airport operators that buy end-to-end from a single vendor and value having “one throat to choke”, many simply prefer to work with best of breed suppliers and so segment their RFPs according to touchpoint and perceived expertise in a particular area.
In most ways this deal makes very good sense, combining innovation in the more specialist area of biometrics, borders and identity management with broader IT expertise. Both have global reach, and each will fill some of the “holes” in their individual footprints. As mentioned, Amadeus’s and Vision-Box’s respective product portfolios (both hardware and software) and customer bases complement each other. Amadeus promotes its own biometric solutions and ICM Technics installed the world’s first biometric bag drops in Auckland in 2015 but Vision-Box has made greater headway with a more established biometric footprint in over 100 countries and growing implementation of its Seamless Journey platform. Significantly, the combined entity will be able to offer a complete seamless portfolio in-house. Most projects address one or the other but together, Amadeus and Vision-Box will address all airline and airport passenger touchpoints as well as border control and immigration. The challenge remains that the customer bases will remain largely separate, but it will be easier to accommodate and coordinate as a master systems integrator with hands-on expertise of both.
The fact that both are proponents of cloud-based solutions for Common Use infrastructure and orchestration of trusted traveller data will aid this and could also allow for expansion into adjacent secure systems and solutions for border control, digital identity management and the wider travel and transportation sector. We see the market is heading in this direction with greater adoption of electronic travel authorisations (ETAs), digital travel credentials (DTCs) and biometric entry-exit programmes, as well as more biometric touchpoints and seamless experiences to improve operational efficiency, flexibility, sustainability and the traveller experience. With the Vision-Box acquisition, Amadeus has given itself a stronger platform to maximise these opportunities. Going forward, we might even see more acquisitions and partnerships forming, much like the one between SITA and NECs, as the competition look to do the same.
Valour Consultancy’s Airports + Borders team provides coverage and intelligence on the adoption of self-service and automated traveller touchpoints, and the integration of biometrics and digital identity to enable these and associated platforms and processes. Its latest services include reports on The Seamless Passenger Journey in Smart Airports, Smart Borders: The Future Evolution of Land, Sea and Air Borders, and the Smart Airports Tracker. Please contact email@example.com for more information on these services or to find out how we may assist you in any related areas.