At Arana Security, we have worked with industry experts to create state-of-the-art biometric access control solutions. This article explores how biometric technology is being used to improve global border security.
In recent years, there has been increasing pressure on governments worldwide to improve border security and overall passenger safety and experience. This call for enhanced safety and security has intensified during a global period of increased terrorist attacks, criminal activity and the Covid-19 pandemic. In response to these demands, more elaborate and time-consuming border checks have been put in place, demanding more from already stretched border officers with insufficient resources.
This became particularly evident at the height of the global pandemic. In a 2021 article by the Guardian, a Border Force officer claimed that pre-Covid, the process for each passenger at immigration control took around 30 secs, while post-Covid, it was about 15 minutes per person.
When border security becomes congested from security checks to immigration, often there is a knock-on effect of increased fraudulent behaviour and illegal crossing of international borders, including human trafficking. Where human border resources are limited, the need for improved border control to identify threats, detect and prevent criminal behaviour, and limit the spread of disease is heightened.
Governments have answered these mounting concerns by introducing biometric border security solutions. This technology has been tested and adapted across different countries to revolutionise how we travel and protect our borders.
What is biometric border security?
In 2023, biometric technology has infiltrated our daily lives so much that we barely notice it. Our smartphones use fingerprint and facial recognition countless times per day for access to our apps including things like banking, and voice recognition to access our smart assistant.
This technology has been adapted for border security, using iris, facial, fingerprint and gait recognition biometrics (known as our biometric characteristics) to identify each individual as they pass through a biometric corridor referred to as an ‘eGate.’
How does an eGate work?
An eGate is a self-service border control system that uses biometric characteristics to verify each passenger’s identity. The eGate will compare these characteristics against information on the passenger’s passport chip as they walk through a corridor. Once identification is verified, the individual is cleared to pass through the gate and continue with their onward journey without queuing, showing paper documents or interacting with a border officer.
The eGates currently in use most commonly use iris and facial recognition technology.
Iris recognition: You might be familiar with iris scanners at the airport, where you stand still and stare into a camera as it scans your eye. The more advanced iris recognition in an eGate allows your unique iris pattern to be identified on the go, as you walk through the gate. The iris has over 240 biometric recognition points, unique to each passenger. This is more than both facial and fingerprint recognition points so combining the identifiers in an eGate provides layered security.
Facial recognition: eGates use sensors to capture 3-D images of a person’s face – this technology can capture this image on the move, in poor lighting and when the face may not fully be in focus – ideal for identifying passengers as they pace through the eGate corridor.
The benefits of this real-time identity verification include:
- Prevention of document fraud
- Increased border security
- Terrorism prevention
- Limit the spread of disease
- Reduce congestion at borders
- Ease of access for passengers
Global biometric border security
World governments are working together with researchers, businesses and border control authorities to advance this technology for greater security. The issue of misuse and manipulation of this biometric border security as well as ethical concerns are key issues being tackled.
The EU project D4FLY was created to research and test technologies to enhance ‘ the quality and efficiency of identity verification at border crossings in all modalities: land, air and sea.’ Their research included tackling some of the issues with biometric border security, including passport forgery and fraud and the ethical, legal and social impact of the technology.
In July 2022, the UK Home Office released a policy paper, outlining plans to expand the use of eGates from airports to train stations and ports with the goal of creating ‘the world’s most effective and secure border system.’ There are currently over 270 eGates in place at 15 air and rail ports in the UK, accessible with biometric passport chips.
Versions of these biometric eGates are already being used on a global scale to increase border security, including:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
As biometric technology continues to rapidly advance, global border security will continue to adapt and improve with it.
At Arana Security, we specialise in providing customised access control solutions across industries, including airport security, government, hospitality, education and healthcare. If your organisation could benefit from smart and reliable security management, book a consultation today.