Deciphering Automated Border Control (ABC) solutions

Text: Michael Brandau, Giesecke & Devrient

Screen shot 2014-03-28 at 16.46.00Electronic passports have made it possible to use IT based systems to perform border control tasks. Meanwhile, e-passports are used in more than 100 countries. More and more countries in the world make use of the benefits of an electronic passport to solve another, continuously growing problem: how to handle the increasing numbers of travelers at international borders. In 2012 an estimated 5.7 billion passengers passed through the world’s airports. By 2031 this figure is projected to double, reaching an estimated 12.2 billion.1 Electronic passports allow for the use of Automated Border Control (ABC) solutions.

Many countries install Automated Border Control (ABC) solu- tions – at least at their biggest airport – or increase existing ABC installations to deal with the continuously growing passenger numbers. In general, every country – of course (at least at first sight) – chooses its own variant of an ABC implementation as there is a multitude of ABC solution providers on the market, everyone with its own flavor of an ABC solution.
Furthermore, every country has its own rules on how to perform the border control task and specifically the automated version of it. At least in the Schengen area, these rules are restricted, guided and thus somehow harmonized by the Schengen border code.
For a frequent traveler (e.g. a business person) who holds an electronic passport and travels globally, this diversity means that one has to cope with many different ways of how to use such an ABC solution. The process might differ from country to country; it might even be different at different airports in oNE country. Throughput of ABC gates therefore is not as good as it could be since people are not familiar with all the different types of gates.

As a European citizen traveling back and forth a lot to coun- tries outside the Schengen area, one will notice this diversity throughout the whole of Europe. When leaving the Schengen area via Frankfurt airport (Germany), one has to have a different kind of ABC experience than in the UK. In UK the ABC experience might depend not only on the airport. There are even different solutions at one airport! This picture continues: the French ABC differs from the Spanish etc… These few lines give just a first glimpse of the current situation of ABC in Europe.

FastPass – Scope and objectives
Security, mobility, and harmonization with efficiency in throughput and speed: these are the key challenges for border control within the European Union. Indeed, a continuously increasing travellers flow wants to cross the Schengen frontiers with maximum conven- ience and rapidity whereas the border guards have to secure the border against various threats, among which terrorism, illegal immigration or crime.

Analysis of potentials for improvement in several technical areas has started (handling of travel documents, document readers, camera technology, etc.) First concepts for system design are drafted and will be aligned with the results of the requirements analysis.
The project has three years and four months more to go.
In this complex context, the FastPass project, co-funded by the European Union under its Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), has started. It has been designed to establish and demonstrate a harmonized, modular approach for Automated Border Control (ABC) gates.
Gathering 27 partners of seven different member states, FastPass takes into account the entire ABC value chain – system and component producers, research institutions, governmental authorities, end-users – and develops all technologies in a user- centric way. For that matter, the whole innovation process will be constantly evaluated by the two end-user groups mentioned above: the travellers and the border guards. FastPass will also exploit the full potential of electronic travel documents, by using state-of- the-art identification technologies, such as new biometric modali- ties, enhanced video surveillance, state-of-the-art document authentication techniques, and thus reducing the risk of spoofing.
The project is conducted having five objectives in mind:
• First, the integration and harmonization of an upcoming European EES (Entry / Exit system) and RTP (Registered Traveller Program) in the ABC system in order to enhance the European Smart Borders Initiative, aimed at strength- ening the overall governance of the Schengen area.
• Second, harmoniously evaluate the ABC usability, including relevant technical, social, ethical and legal issues.
• Third, support an innovative border crossing concept, by developing the interlinked security at the frontiers.
• Fourth, take up the major challenges in areas like document checking, biometric identification, intelligent surveillance, interoperability and adaptability of the system architecture or gate technology and achieve an innovative technological leadership.
• And, last but not least, enhance the European cooperation.
FastPass will be demonstrated and evaluated thanks to the implementation of the final solution in at least three different member states at all types of border – air, land, sea. Numerous impacts are expected for various areas: identification, moni- toring and surveillance, usability and speed, border crossing process, harmonization and interoperability, passport verifica- tion. Now after eight months the project has achieved several milestones:

Giesecke & Devrient’s part of the project
As one of the 27 project members, Giesecke & Devrient contributes – together with the other industry partners – to the realization and development of the ideas and concepts which are based on the requirements collected from the stakeholders.Our main focus of work lies in the software aspects of the future solution. Here we strongly contribute to the software archi- tecture, drive the development of a flexible, modular ABC software framework and coordinate the integration of software components that will be implemented by the other partners. For instance the system architecture of the harmonized ABC gate shall support concepts like the Frontex virtual border concept, as well as EES or RTP programs.
FastPass project environment: EU initiatives and regulations
Some of the FastPass objectives touch EU initiatives or drafts of regulations that are under controverse discussion. The Smart Borders initiative with EES and RTP is such a topic, as it bears critical aspects with respect to privacy (see press release EDPS/2013/08 of the European Data ProtectionSupervisor from 19 July 2013).
The FastPass project puts a strong focus on securing privacy by following a privacy-by-design approach. Nevertheless, the progress of these controverse discussions must and will be followed and their results must be analysed on their impact on the project’s scope and objectives.
The advancement of the project will be regularly reported to the public not only through the presence of FastPass’ members at diverse conferences and seminars, but also via the FastPass website: https:/
1 ACI Global Traffic Forecast 2012-2031, ACI/DKMA Publications,


This article was first issued in the VAULT, #13, in November 2013


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