Now is the time for multi-modal biometrics at border security checkpoints


Border security today is facing a perfect storm of challenges that requires every tool available to manage it. John Kendall, Border Security Program Director, Unisys, explores why the time for multi-modal biometrics, including face, fingerprint and iris recognition technology, has arrived.

Many border security agencies have clung to outdated technologies and inaccurate assumptions when it comes to leveraging biometrics. For many, the reluctance to modernise technology at the border relates to flat budgets. For others, time simply doesn’t allow them to screen travellers effectively.

Globally however, border security agencies can no longer afford to stand still in time. The sheer volume of travellers crossing borders means advanced technology must play a role in effective border security. In 2015, a record 1.2 billion people travelled overseas – up four per cent.

In addition, the war in Syria has sparked the largest human migration seen since the end of World War II . This, coupled with fear caused by the recent Paris and Brussels attacks has created a dire need to efficiently and accurately monitor who enters, and leaves, each country.

Multimodal biometrics are the future and border security agencies must be ready to adopt them.

Biometrics can help

New ePassports include facial biometric data on the chip, so biometrics can automatically detect stolen or forged passports by authenticating the traveller against the rightful holder of the travel document.

Border agencies can also use biometrics to check the traveller against a watch list of known “most wanted” persons to identify individuals of interest when entering or leaving the country. Automated clearance eGates are also capable of performing these checks quickly and accurately.

Border security solutions employing biometric technology are used in many countries today including the US, UK and Australia. But these biometric solutions display little differences from those deployed 15 years ago and continue to exhibit the same shortcomings.

In particular, most of the current biometric solutions are unable to detect individuals travelling under multiple identities and travel documents. This is a vulnerability that can be exploited by terrorists and other criminals to avoid detection when travelling internationally.

If an individual is able to obtain a new passport (perhaps from a different country) under a new “clean” identity, then the chances of getting stopped by border security officers is very small…Click HERE to find out more about this article