Close Search Search

Early risk alerts make for safer, more efficient borders

Neeti Pandhi is Product Manager for SITA Intelligence and Targeting, she explains how digital solutions are enabling frontline border staff to identify threats in advance of travel and across the entire journey.

You recently joined the SITA Intelligence and Targeting team, how are you finding your new role?

Borders is a new area for me; though I’ve been in the travel industry all my life, working for hotels, global distribution systems, airlines, and operations. This role is both interesting and challenging because we are helping governments protect their borders while providing a seamless travel experience facilitating cross-border movement with state-of-the-art border security solutions. The work we do is critical because effective border management is essential on the one hand to national security, while equally, it facilitates trade and tourism.

When it comes to borders, what drives governments to adopt risk and assessment tools like SITA’s Intelligence and Targeting solution?

As passengers, all we want at an airport is to get through immigration and to our destination. At the same time, we trust the officials at immigration to make sure we are all kept safe on our journey. Governments globally face this tricky balancing act.

Identifying potential risks early, and as far from a nation’s border as possible, is one of the most complex challenges facing governments in their duty to protect a nation. This task is made harder by surging international travel as well as limited resources to manage high passenger volumes, increased crime, and changing security threats as high-risk individuals are finding ways to cross borders.

Just consider that a border control might only have three or four immigration officers checking passports and queues of hundreds of people from one flight alone. With such a high load, they need tools to help them perform their critical role.

This is why governments are investing in new digital ways of working and are increasingly looking at automation to manage these evolving threats and risks to their land, sea, and air borders.

What makes an effective risk and assessment tool?

We believe an effective risk and assessment tool needs to be integrated with end-to-end border management solutions that are flexible, configurable, scalable, and biometric-ready.

These tools need to be flexible enough to enable frontline officers to quickly configure new rules or change existing ones to adapt to evolving threats and national and global requirements. Configurable, so governments can set controls. Scalable, so the system can grow with expanding operations and travel demand, and biometric-ready to support the deployment of the most accurate and secure identification tools.

Our SITA Intelligence and Targeting solution is an advanced risk and assessment tool that puts the customer in control by providing fully configurable rules and dynamic workflows, as well as pre-screening capabilities.

A fully integrated border solution, it uses smart data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to generate actionable intelligence. SITA Intelligence and Targeting uses market-leading authentication, augmented risk assessment, sophisticated watchlist matching and risk profiling using the widest set of traveler and operational data available. It allows governments to monitor risk assessment performance and apply controls to improve data quality. Plus, it enables data integration from multiple sources, real-time analysis and auto alerts.

SITA Intelligence and Targeting integrates with other key solutions as well, including but not limited to SITA Travel Authorization, Advance Passenger Processing, border control and external watchlists. This compatibility streamlines the task of conducting effective risk assessments.

What are the major advantages of digital systems like this for governments?

Advanced risk assessment methods and artificial intelligence significantly reduce the time needed by government agencies to extract strategic risk analysis and operational situational awareness with multiple data streams across the entire traveler journey. This puts valuable intelligence in the hands of governments, allowing them to act before high-risk individuals arrive in their country including evolving security and policy requirements. At the same time, it limits the impact on the majority of passengers, who are simply transiting the borders for personal or business purposes.

Collaboration seems to be a key focus area for border solutions, why is this?

Correct. For instance, in the United States when 9/11 happened, the intelligence was available among different agencies; they all knew bits and pieces of who was traveling, their nationalities and the visas they were holding, but this wasn’t shared.

With integrated border management, where information is shared, agencies can perform better intelligence targeting on higher-risk individuals. With SITA Intelligence and Targeting, we can facilitate multiple border stakeholders to work in coordination on comprehensive traveler intelligence and investigation.

Based on the information fed into the system, border agencies can perform deeper investigations and trend analysis. In other words, they can determine which countries or airports pose the higher risk for their country. Based on the intelligence provided, border officials can modify their risk rules or criteria – this could be as wide a net as nationality, departure points, or even the use of cash or credit cards on a passenger journey.

It can even enable border agencies to determine if high-risk passengers are associated with any other passenger on a journey, including their seat number, origin point and destination. We make sure our platform is providing governments with actionable intelligence using data science and machine learning algorithms, sophisticated watchlist matching and risk profiling. It’s very dynamic.

Can you share examples of how the information provided by SITA Intelligence and Targeting has helped governments act proactively against high-risk individuals before entry?

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we helped governments manage their borders in a more dynamic way. Regulations and rules on who was able to travel changed on a weekly and sometimes daily basis as countries were placed on the danger list. We provided border agencies with dynamic risk configuration capabilities to manage and change their systems and add profiles based on the country’s policies.

In addition, SITA Intelligence and Targeting provides Advanced Passenger Processing (APP) capabilities which allow carriers to submit biographical and service data for passengers and crew members to the destination government as the traveler is checking in. This allows governments to assess the risk of the traveler - in real-time - prior to the traveler boarding. SITA also allows governments to send boarding directives to the carrier stating whether or not a particular traveler should be allowed to depart. This way, governments know who is coming and what their history is, just by using the pre-clearance capability.

Another example relates to travel authorization when you apply for a visa or if you have multiple passports. Our system can check the multiple identities and match them to see if there is a discrepancy or if anything needs to be raised by the frontline staff.

As global threats evolve, how can SITA’s solutions help governments stay one step ahead?

Our systems allow governments to adjust risk parameters dynamically. In other words, as soon as governments start seeing new patterns or threats emerging, they can fine-tune the system and apply new controls or red flags based on the very latest information.