Keeping borders safe with biometrics and AI

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Emerging technologies are giving rise to ever more ingenuous threats to border security, forcing airports to up their own technological game, explains Tim Ferris, APAC president and senior vice president for PSI, Idemia.

Air travel is growing at an unprecedented rate. Last year, IATA noted, the world’s airlines carried more than four billion people on over 20,000 routes. With this number expected to double over the next 15 years, airline operators, airports and governments will be challenged to ramp up safety measures for air travel, in addition to securitizing the movement of the billions of people traveling today.

Among the biggest challenges they face will be threats driven by emerging technologies, which is making it easier for people to circumvent conventional security protocols. For instance, although much has been done in the way of improving passport production and authentication, the problem of fake passports remains. In Southeast Asia, regulatory breaches and sellers on the dark web are making it easier for people to purchase and use forged passports – making borders more porous.

Threats to border security at airports remains a real struggle and authorities – technologically – need to keep up with those behind the threats by using tools that provide irrefutable proof of identity. However, the authorities still need to keep in mind how implementing enhanced security measures through these technologies may affect the flow of passengers.

Controlling borders with biometrics
Immigration and customs authorities hold a vital responsibility; they are the first in line when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks, circumventing organized crime and preventing human trafficking. However, the explosive growth in the number of international travelers is putting pressure on authorities’ ability to identify threats without adversely affecting the speed of passenger flows.

Nevertheless, new security improvements utilizing cutting-edge technology may help to alleviate these burdens. One key solution is the use of biometric technology, which can provide accurate details of who is in a country at any given time – ensuring that everyone who enters and leaves that country can be safely identified. For airline industry stakeholders, biometric technology has been proven to reliably match travelers with their travel documents, thus providing irrefutable proof of identity.

Nipping threats in the bud
Authorities in many countries today leverage systems that automatically collect and analyze passenger data to counter growing threats. The information given before travelers fly (API – advance passenger information) and reservation details (PNR – passenger name record) assists authorities in analyzing and inspecting passenger data in real time before travelers enter or leave a country. The systems also greatly improve high data volume processing, which is fundamental, considering the huge volume of people traveling each year.

But what sort of data is gathered to strengthen security? For one, a traveler’s previous trips abroad can help authorities identify dangerous persons and assess risks to other passengers, with a view to conducting comprehensive checks in the case of a real threat. This enables authorities to anticipate threats and manage manpower by focusing on the smaller pool of highly dangerous passengers. This is beneficial on two fronts. Firstly, risks are reduced because they are identified, anticipated and dealt with more efficiently. Secondly, not having to conduct checks on everyone helps to prevent intruding upon the privacy of ‘safe’ passengers, while also reducing waiting times and ensuring a smoother travel experience.

Still, the challenge of needing to identify a larger volume of passengers in the future remains, potentially placing strains on authorities and the systems being used. To supplement the security efforts, the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tech will be a valuable resource for security officers. Applying that to biometric passenger identification tech, the officers can better concentrate on investigating dangerous individuals.

Analyzing travel data prior to a flight, which is made easier by the latest AI tech, also brings additional resources to security officers. Thanks to biometric passenger identification technology, officers can now concentrate more on investigating dangerous individuals.

Latest-gen solutions for a new travel ecosystem
Modern problems require modern solutions, and biometric identification tech may provide the answer for immigration and security officers. One example is the use of biometric contactless technology which can be integrated into existing infrastructure via electronic counters, self-service check-ins and automatic passport controls. This not only provides better security, but it also makes the flow of passengers smoother and the traveler’s experience a seamless and more enjoyable one.

For today’s security officers, managing visa and travel authorizations is now intrinsically tied to the concept of modern, integrated border security systems – which puts pressure on both passenger security and convenience. Some technologies that can be leveraged include electronic visa and travel authorization, which can help streamline procedures for both the traveling public and authorities who issue authorizations. They can be used to help control overstays and to cut down on airport queues, making them transformative solutions that boost efficiency and border security by delivering irrefutable proof of identity – namely by cross-checking documents with national and international lists before travel.

The future is in Asia-Pacific
Air travel is now at an all-time high, and we have had the privilege to work with many forward thinkers within the aviation industry. Our biometrics solution is proving to be successful in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, helping to cut queues while beefing up airports’ security capacities.

However, the focus is now on bringing that same experience to air travel stakeholders in Asia-Pacific – the region forecast to see the biggest demand for air travel between 2020 and 2035. It will be an exciting time for travel; albeit one that will be sure to carry more security risks and an increased demand for seamless travel. With our technology and a firm foothold in Asia-Pacific, Idemia is well-positioned to provide solutions which can transform experiences.

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