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Smart moves at the border

ABC gates and kiosk

Automated border control gates and kiosks will help reduce the hassle and tedium of immigration control, while increasing efficiency.

No wonder borders are under pressure. Air traffic has doubled in the past 15 years and is expected to double again in the next 15. Although shocks such as the 2008 financial crisis had a massive impact at the time, air traffic rebounds even stronger.

Not only are there more passengers. There are more routes, more frequent flights and more per flight capacity.

Look at the math. Over the next 18 years, Airbus forecasts passenger numbers to grow by 4.7% CAGR – from 2.9bn in 2012 to 6.7bn in 2032. Over the same period, the passenger fleet will more than double, from 16,094 aircraft to 33,651.

The top 20 airports by passenger number saw those numbers increase by an average of 5% last year, according to FlightGlobal. The top 10 fastest growing airports saw an increase of 17% in passenger numbers – spread across four continents.

At the same time, the globalization of goods and services has been mirrored by the global spread of terrorism. The Global Terrorism Database for 2013 reflects a swathe of incidents worldwide, requiring greater vigilance and more stringent measures to ensure the safety of passengers.

"Border agencies need a balance of manual and automated solutions to strike the right balance of security versus traveler facilitation, at the right cost."
Dan Ebbinghaus, Vice President, Border Security, SITA


Resources are stretched for both airports and border authorities. Passengers want to be secure, of course, but they also don’t want security processes to create delays.

Airports and border authorities have to cope with the normal while preparing for the abnormal. They must invest in systems that keep the flow moving at an acceptable rate for passengers, even at peak times, while ensuring sufficient security in a way that’s cost-effective and functionally efficient.

“We need to get rid of long immigration queues,” comments Dan Ebbinghaus, VP Border Security, SITA. “In the worst instances, it can take as long to get through immigration as the flight itself. Making visitors queue for long periods to get into a country is not the best way to welcome them, nor to encourage them back in the future.

“Given today’s border pressures and tomorrow’s passenger numbers, the problem will escalate fast without action. The current position is unsustainable. But the good news is that work is being done through the co-operation of various parties, including SITA.”

Self-service inevitability

In old money, the answer would be more staffing. But that has significant cost implications, not least in establishment costs, space costs and speed. Moreover, qualified border officers’ time is arguably too precious to spend on the vast low-risk majority – it’s better used dealing with potential risk situations.

In an era when people prefer to manage their own itineraries, self-service border automation, such as automated gates and kiosks, is both the inevitable and the best solution.


“Automation plays a significant role in the delivery of a modern, effective, efficient border operation. But we must remember that it’s not the answer on its own. Automation is not just about queue busting, though of course that’s a major objective,” says Ebbinghaus.

He continues, “Automation also plays a key role in making the immigration process faster and easier as part of an integrated, modern border control effort that embraces biometrics, advance passenger information and other capabilities to rapidly obtain clear intelligence and insights. (See ‘The industry’s border solution’ below.)

“This helps immigration agencies to increase operational efficiency, while making them more effective at their primary task.”

Consider the perspective of cost per traveler. Automation offers a rapid, reliable system that can deal with the vast majority of travelers who pose no concern.


However, manual solutions are also needed to deal with the extreme minority and with unexpected glitches. Border agencies need a balance of manual and automated solutions to strike the right balance of security versus traveler facilitation, at the right cost.

“If airports and border agencies can apply the latest in biometric, trusted ID, and self-service technologies,” continues Ebbinghaus, “then we’re en route to resolving the challenge.

“It’s happening now through initiatives such as automated gates and kiosks and the trend will accelerate, driven by the dynamic to improve, as well as by passenger expectation.

“Embracing self-service automation is the smart move to make at the border, as part of an integrated border portfolio.”

ABC gates open a new era

Considerable weight for greater automation comes from IATA’s Smart Security initiative. In step with Smart Security, as well as IATA’s Fast Travel program, SITA is delivering an increasing range of self-service solutions. Border management, including automated gates and kiosks, is a prime element.

SITA’s self-service border control kiosks were first seen at Miami International Airport in 2013. Then, in 2014, SITA was first to market with the new Phase III Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks, working with the Greater Orlando Airport Authority. APC is the US-specific directive to introduce passport control kiosks across the country (see ‘USA drive for passport control kiosks’ section below).

Now, with new Automated Border Control Kiosks (ABC Kiosks) and updates to the Automated Border Control Gates (ABC Gates) as part of SITA’s iBorders BorderAutomation product – and with the proven impact of APC in the US – it's only a question of time before travelers, border agencies and airports on all continents benefit from the move to automated self-service border control.

First among those adopting SITA’s new ABC response has been a Caribbean country with recent the introduction of 15 ABC Kiosks. Passenger throughput at the borders is expected to increase by close to 60%.

Europe is now also beginning to embrace SITA’s ABC Gates to automate the border crossing – starting with a contract with one major airport that has some of the highest traffic volumes on the continent.

Happy passengers

ABC gates and kiosks mean fewer bottlenecks, so travelers experience increased satisfaction with airport services, and airlines avoid costly schedule changes for passengers who might have otherwise missed transfers.

With passengers moving through the airport more quickly, overall capacity is increased, enabling more flights.

Border agency staff can do more with less without compromising security – increasing capacity by as much as 400%. They can devote more resources to higher-risk passengers. They will face fewer travelers made bad-tempered through frustration at long wait times.

Modern borders

Control over who crosses our borders has become a major political issue worldwide, while the demand for air transport continues to increase unabated.

IATA, ACI, SITA and a range of other providers and stakeholders – including key immigration authorities – are working hard to resolve the issues created by this dynamic.

“We all want to be able to move from curb to aircraft steps with as little hassle as possible,” says Ebbinghaus.

“But the reality is that national borders have become areas of great sensitivity and governments rightly want to know who is entering their country, and whether they present a risk.

“Technology is helping square the circle by providing robust automated services that free up the border agent without compromising levels of security. SITA remains at the forefront of these smart solutions, which are rapidly becoming part of the modern approach to border management,” he concludes.

IATA’s smart security

IATA’s Smart Security program is founded on delivering an uninterrupted journey from curb to aircraft door. It envisages passengers passing through security checkpoints with minimal interruption, where security resources are allocated based on risk, and where airport amenities can be maximized.

The program sets out a road map to evolve airport passenger security screening to a more sustainable, efficient and effective process that leverages new technologies. There are three goals:

  1. Strengthened security, with resources based on risk, with better use made of existing technologies, and new technologies introduced with advanced capabilities as they become available
  2. Increased operational efficiency, from increased throughput, optimized asset use, reduced cost per passenger, and maximized space and staff resources
  3. Improved passenger experience, with shorter queues and waiting times and technology providing less intrusive and time consuming security screening.

A six-year road map anticipates:

  • 2014: new processes to facilitate risk-based screening, optimize resources and asset utilization, integrate new and repurpose existing technology
  • 2017: update technologies, focus on customer service and improved throughput, introduce major advances in risk assessment.
  • 2020: uninterrupted passenger flow, screening based on risk assessment, with no divesting.

Go to for more information.

The industry's border solution

SITA’s border solutions have been developed in close cooperation with border agency partners on all continents, as well as airlines, airports and industry groups.

This has enabled a profound understanding of the expectations, ambitions and concerns of all those involved in the handling of border security.

iBorders® Border Management provides governments with a complete set of capabilities to transform border security. It improves the experience for travelers and secures borders with information, intelligence, optimized interactions and comprehensive insight into every aspect of border operations, through a four-layered model of capabilities:

iBorders® Information provides comprehensive traveler information from airlines and other carriers, as well as integration with external information sources, such as government databases, to enhance controls at the border and speed up the processing of people and goods.

iBorders® Intelligence transforms traveler information into actionable intelligence using powerful risk assessment tools combined with travel document and identity verification, to identify high-risk travelers and persons of interest.

iBorders® Interaction offers preclearance of travelers before they travel, as well as secure risk-assessed self-service border clearance for travelers holding biometric travel documents, freeing up border management resources while improving security.

iBorders® Insight provides comprehensive statistics and metrics on border performance, combined with predictive tools that enable efficient allocation of available resources and management of border operations.

For more information, see ‘A smart move: APC kiosks increase airport efficiencies at us borders.'

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