Amid the various disruptions to travel and trade in recent years, agencies providing border services have been challenged to respond and adapt quickly to new expectations while also making creative use
of limited resources. Many of these responses have been based on using advances and developments in technology and, for the most part, the results have been positive; a recent Accenture research-based report, Future borders 2030: From vision to reality, found that two-thirds of international travelers and import/export traders had a growing appetite for further use of existing and emerging technologies to improve borders, immigration and customs services.
However, despite this wave of positivity, it is worth remembering that the border services landscape remains dynamic and unpredictable, and affiliated agencies should constantly be rethinking what they do and
how they do it, while also ensuring that all decisions keep users at their center. To that end, there are three current trends that border agencies should be aware of in this era of transformation.
Trend 1: Frictionless by design
There is growing demand for a more secure, fast and responsive journey across global borders. Agencies can enable this by collaborating to integrate and process the information they have on what is being transported, such as shipment date, origin and destination. By combining technology with a deep understanding of what users want, border agencies can elevate border experiences using data and analytics, digital identity and blockchain to create more seamless border crossings. For example, using data and predictive analytics, we can dynamically configure physical checkpoints to better accommodate different needs for various segments of travelers and traders.
Key to this will be understanding that even with the growing role of digital technology in streamlining border experiences, there will always be a need to balance technology with a human touch. To enable this experience
shift, agencies need to build workforces with the right skills; for example, the ability to understand the mindset of a trader or traveler in different phases of their journey.
Trend 2: Trust to truth
Verifying identity is key for processing people and goods at borders. To improve border crossings securely and efficiently going forward, technology-minded agencies are likely to make much greater use of biometrics and digital identity tools. Border agencies that track, and even stay ahead of, this transformation will be able to arm decision makers with data that can be used to streamline the border process even further.
Take checkpoints as an example. Facial recognition technology powered by advanced biometrics and spoof detection is already helping border agencies confirm travelers’ identity from the moment they enter a port of entry. To support a greater trust-to-truth strategy, data exchange capabilities and tools will expand the breadth and depth of sources and speed. Savvy agencies are building data and digital fluency in their workforces so they can develop the skills necessary to process technologies such as digital wallets, either for travelers or goods.
Trend 3: Virtual frontiers
The growth of virtual worlds such as the metaverse is helping to speed up the pace at which physical and digital boundaries are blurring. The emergence and acceleration of the metaverse are redefining the notion of borders by overcoming the barriers of the physical world and bringing people, goods and services closer together.
By 2030, the metaverse will become a place where people connect, learn, make purchases and conduct business. In response, border agencies will see many aspects of services for tourism, immigration and commerce moving online. Tapping the potential of virtual and immersive worlds can help agencies keep pace with this evolving technology and its applications for border services. For instance, businesses will be able to explore destinations and places of interest, book orders and logistics, and comply with border agency requirements online through the metaverse. The metaverse can also offer immersive and interactive learning to upskill the workforce, improve decision-making processes and supercharge cross-agency collaboration and training.
However, to ensure a cohesive metaverse experience for users, border agencies should work closely with other government agencies and help guide the development of regulations. In a new digital world, do the old rules regarding borders still apply? And if not, what are the new guidelines? All this and more will need to be discussed and agreed upon.
Although there’s no denying that physical borders will remain, border services for travel and trade are likely to change dramatically by 2030. Technology evolution is set to play a huge role in enabling border agencies to continually modernize operations and better support the economic growth and prosperity of their nations.
This article was originally published in the April 2023 issue of Passenger Terminal World magazine