SITA, today celebrates the 25th anniversary of its border management business, a journey that started in 1996 in readiness for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. A quarter of a century on, SITA’s border solutions are used by over 60 governments to seamlessly process two billion border crossings every year.
SITA’s extensive knowledge and experience in serving the air transport industry includes delivering solutions and services for airlines, airports, and on aircraft. This has enabled the organization to diversify its portfolio over the last few decades into border management and security for governments worldwide with significant success.
Jeremy Springall, VP of SITA AT BORDERS, said: "We’re immensely proud to celebrate this 25-year milestone for our borders business. We started our journey in 1996 in Australia and since then our border solutions have processed over seven billion transactions. Our business is focused on the safe movement of people. Whether it is major events such as the Olympic Games in Sydney, the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, or a family going on holiday, we have been there to make it easier and more secure.”
It is this expertise, as well as leveraging SITA’s wider air transport industry experience, that has enabled SITA to support governments with the latest challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic. SITA’s Health Protect solution was developed rapidly this year to help countries safely manage their borders.
Jeremy Springall said: “We managed to bring Health Protect to market at great speed because of our substantial experience and knowledge of the industry’s challenges. We leveraged our existing and proven products to deliver a flexible solution that incorporates the new requirements for health with existing passenger processing systems while maintaining safety and security.”
Major events were key early on
In 1996 SITA pioneered an electronic travel authorization (ETA) system for the 2000 Sydney Olympics to give the authorities visibility into the millions of visitors planning to cross the border in advance and reduce bottlenecks at immigration checkpoints. The system successfully reduced immigration clearance to a matter of seconds. SITA supplemented the system with an interactive Advance Passenger Processing (APP) solution, which analyzes passengers in real-time at check-in to keep illegitimate travelers from boarding their flight and entering the country.
SITA went on to deliver these solutions for the 2004 Bahrain Grand Prix Formula 1 racing and at many other major events, such as the FIFA World Cups in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014.
The evolution of the portfolio over the years
The benefits experienced of using SITA technology to move large volumes of passengers safely and seamlessly during major world events have now been extended to the everyday management of borders. Through the 2000s and 2010s, many governments in the Middle East and Asia Pacific began adopting SITA APP, often along with other SITA solutions, to improve border security and make entry easier for legitimate travelers.
In the early 2000s, with security high on the agenda after 9/11, the Canadian government was first to engage SITA to enable them to assess potential threats to their country. SITA created a service to exchange passenger data, and the subsequent roll-out of this API PNR Gateway solution to other governments and airlines for passenger risk assessment purposes, has made it the most widely used data gateway service by governments and airlines. Today 600 airlines are connected to SITA’s ‘single window’ data gateway.
With the focus on security, the introduction of electronic passports and the challenge of increasing passenger throughput in the 2000s, SITA expanded its portfolio further. Using their early experience of delivering ETA systems, SITA designed an e-Visa solution for governments to ensure that visitors had the necessary electronic permission to travel. SITA also introduced more secure, user-friendly automated gates and kiosks using biometrics for identity management – including the US, Jamaica and Italy in the 2010s – as an alternative to traditional, manual border controls. Over the last few years, SITA has introduced various self-service biometric options to border control, including mobile apps, that automate identity verification.
Over the years, SITA has fine-tuned its intelligence and targeting capabilities and is helping governments detect suspicious activity and take the targeted steps to safeguard their borders.
Now with a complete end-to-end border management portfolio spanning the entire passenger journey, SITA has extended its aviation expertise to land and sea borders.
Jeremy Springall adds, “While our focus over the past 25 years has been on air borders, our experience and knowledge can and has been applied to land and sea. It is another step towards delivering a completely seamless and secure experience whether you travel by plane, train, or automobile.”
“On behalf of the company, I would like to sincerely thank our employees all around the world, past and present, for their commitment and hard work, which has been critical to our longevity and success. As well, we are hugely grateful for the continued support and confidence of our members, customers, and partners.”
Employees mark 25 years with SITA Olympics
SITA’s 4500+ employees are marking the 25th anniversary by running, walking, cycling, or swimming as part of an Olympic-themed physical well-being challenge to collectively reach 50,000 kilometers while virtually traveling the globe and passing through some of the countries using SITA’s border technology. Should employees fulfil the challenge, the business will make a donation to the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which gives over 90 lower-income economies access to COVID-19 vaccines.
To see Jeremy Springall share his highlights on 25 years at borders, watch this video