Five enablers will facilitate the border control process of the future

The increase in cross-border traveling means that border security agencies have to intensify their efforts to enable smooth, legitimate border crossing, while efficiently identifying and acting upon possible threats.

With budgets challenged and border agencies understaffed, more verifications need to be performed in record time.

Due to the diversified threat landscape we are facing today, threats need to be anticipated and complex risk assessments, based on multiple factors, are necessary to make educated decisions. However, the lack of interconnection between the various national and supranational information systems leads to intelligence silos.

Today, border security procedures are performed on all travelers, at departure or upon arrival. This means unnecessary time spent on lawful travelers and more bottlenecks at borders. Border guards need to be able to assess the threat of an individual prior to arrival, allowing them to spend time on those who present a risk, and streamlining border-cross checks for nationals and bona fide travelers.

An additional level of complexity is added by the fact that the usable infrastructure can vary greatly between two border crossing points. From the big international airport in a country’s capital to the small land border crossing point, all layouts must be taken into account. It is about harmonizing and adapting the means to perform the checks, knowing that in most cases, infrastructure cannot be expanded.

In light of these challenges, governments and agencies in charge of immigration should rethink the border control process entirely. Various key questions arise and shape the evolution of new border control processes:

• How to improve security and streamline processes at the same time?

• How to support the decision-making process to alleviate the border guards’ workload?

• What technologies and tools are available that can help prevent the border crossing of unwanted individuals and enable a welcoming arrival process for everyone else?

The latest technological improvements allow governments to answer these questions by designing their border control systems in line with the following objectives:

• Assessing passengers’ risk profiles prior to arrival

• Making checks at physical borders fast, secure and convenient for nationals and bona fide travelers

• Confirming that a known identity (i.e. of someone who has already visited the country) matches with the physical person at the border

• Providing border guards with all the necessary insight for them to make the most informed decision

1. Biometrics:

Border guards need to verify the identity of the person in front of them before allowing anyone to enter or exit the country. However, passports and ID cards can be falsified. Whether based on face, iris or fingerprints, biometrics are the safest way to verify someone’s identity. This technology offers an unrivalled level of security suited for the border control context.

2. Automation and self-service:

The clearance of a traveler, based on data acquisition as well as background and physical checks, has to be performed in a timely manner to limit waiting time. Meanwhile, an increasingly complex threat landscape calls for the highest level of security. The solution to this paradox is to ease border guards’ work with automation and self-service solutions. Coupled with biometrics, this supports a higher passenger throughput without compromising security. Automation and self-services like supervised eGates or pre-check kiosks allow border guards to focus on highvalue tasks, providing that manned border counters are still made available where needed.

3. Integrated systems:

Today, there are various types of information in ministries and private entities, both on a national and international level, that are not shared with border agents. Consequently, the decision a border guard makes when travelers present themselves at the border is based on incomplete data. Border control systems should be integrated at a national level in order for border guards to have a comprehensive view on people’s movements. Moreover, all borders (land, sea, air) should implement harmonized equipment and processes. It is vital for governments to centrally manage their borders with systems that are interoperable and interconnected, and provide a real-time view on all entry and exit movements across the country.

4. Data analytics:

First of all, risk assessment tools use the border guards’ existing knowledge and experience. Border guards already know the initial patterns that need to be fed into the system. Secondly, risk assessment tools will provide border guards with a list of profiles that present a threat. These profiles will need to be checked and examined manually in great depth at the border. Deeplearning algorithms will learn from border agents’ day-to-day reactions to specific profiles and risk-assessed patterns. The outcome are more efficient border controls, led by humans and enhanced by technology.

5. Digitalization:

IATA’s One ID initiative vouches for a complete digitalization of the passenger experience by enabling travelers’ biometrics to become a token. ICAO’s Digital Travel Credentials project aims to standardize the way travel documents are digitalized, and to enhance both the traveler experience and the overall security. These initiatives show how people’s identities will be managed in the future ‒ with consequences for border control agencies.

These five enablers, if combined and implemented in compliance with the country’s regulations, are key to upgrading to a safer, but also more efficient border control solution. They are the answers to the border control community’s challenges.

By Marion Bonnet – IDEMIA