The first wave of border automation was e-Gates. But we now need to examine what the second wave can deliver – for governments and their stakeholders; port and airport operators, airlines and transport providers, and, of course, passengers themselves.
That’s why my focus is on what we call ‘Border Automation 2.0.’ What we’re already seeing is a distinct shift towards ‘automated risk assessment’ and ‘automated targeting’. I personally believe that they will form a vital part of the second wave of border automation.
Analyzing and risk-assessing data
SITA, is already pretty well known for our ability to move passenger data securely between airlines, airports and governments. What we’re perhaps less well known for, in some circles, is our ability to analyze and risk-assess that data.
We help governments create an ‘automated risk assessment’ capability, by being smart about how we link data together. That includes e-passport data, Advance Passenger Information (and its interactive iAPI form, Passenger Name Record data) and biometrics.
Our approach enables robust risk assessments to be conducted before the passenger travels, and certainly before they arrive in a country. It creates populations of pre-cleared travelers, and pre-load border systems, including e-Gates with verified identities of passengers who’ve been risk-assessed. These passengers will now benefit from a fast track experience when they arrive at the border.
Is there a danger automation could be misused?
No single system or process is 100% secure. That’s why I advocate the importance of taking a layered approach to improving border security, using a combination of people, processes and technology.
The reality is there’s enough time to automate checks and risk assessments well before a passenger arrives in a country. It’s a question of making sure the right data is available in the right place at the right time. And then making sure related business processes, such as issuing an electronic visa or travel authorization, are aligned to provide a complete picture of each passenger and the risk they pose.
As I see it, in the future, we’ll have ‘automated identity verification’ using a variety of self-service options, including kiosks, mobile apps and, of course, e-Gates. And technology, particularly data analytics augmented by machine learning, will automatically identify suspicious patterns of behavior and automatically select passengers for secondary screening – i.e. those we need to talk to when they arrive at the border.
A more seamless future at the border
In years to come, automated arrivals processes will be less visible and more seamless, resulting in passengers arriving in a country and walking non-stop from the aircraft gate to the baggage hall and out to the kerb. There will, of course, always be opportunities for law enforcement and other government stakeholders to intervene during the arrivals process.
I think that self-service kiosks are more likely to have a future than eGates. Today, self-service kiosks for the border are typically located in restricted (and supervised) areas of a port or airport. Tomorrow, they could be in unsupervised locations in hotel lobbies, conference centers or shopping malls.
What will be important is the integrity of the business process and the ability to build an ‘identity picture’ having verified passenger data and identity information, no matter where the kiosk is located. This ‘identity picture’ can be re-used multiple times for many other steps in the passenger journey.
What about border automation and the European Entry/Exit System?
The European Entry Exit System (EES) paves the way for that all-important second wave of border automation. When deployed in about two years’ time, it will transform the border control process.
Currently, every non-EU passenger, known as a Third Country National (TCN), must be processed by a Border Control Officer and have their passport physically stamped upon arrival. But Europe faces a challenge in mitigating the risk of irregular migration, typically in the form of non-EU nationals lawfully arriving in Europe but then overstaying.
From 2021 onwards, once EES is operational with every EU Member State connected to it, it will no longer be necessary to physically stamp the passports of TCNs. Stamping will be digitized. Every arriving passenger will have their information, including biometrics, recorded in a central system. This will be complemented by the date, time and location of their arrival. Records stored in the central system will be accessible to all EU Member States.
So, when a passenger arrives in Country X and departs from Country Y, data can be reconciled, and records updated to indicate a passenger has left the EU. Conversely, when a passenger does not leave Europe, an automated process will update their record and share relevant information to assist in locating the passenger.
From my perspective, what’s important here is to perform a variety of checks on other key systems, such as the Schengen Information System (SIS) and the European Asylum Database (EURODAC), and combine identity data with flight data, booking information, arrival dates and times etc.
Delivering the second wave of border automation
Facilitating the movement of people and goods is what SITA has been doing for 70 years. And yes we have a lot of experience in aviation, but we’re also working in the maritime and rail sectors, as well as other tourism sectors.
We’ve learned a lot from managing borders in dozens of countries, including the Middle East and our work with US Customs & Border Protection (CBP). That’s what we bring to our government customers looking to automate key functions at the border, no matter whether that be land, sea or air.
I believe this experience is where much of our value lies and that’s what enables us to support so many governments around the world to secure their borders and create the capabilities to deliver ‘Border Automation 2.0’.
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Read more about SITA’s integrated solution for Border Management that provides governments with a complete set of capabilities to modernize border security through information, intelligence, optimized interactions with travelers and comprehensive insights. It enhances every aspect of border operations.