CBP tests capturing biometric data on-the-move

September 28, 2015 - 

The Custom and Border Protection’s Entry/Exit Transformation (EXT) Office are piloting several programs to make the process of collecting biometric data from foreign traveler entering and leaving the United States less invasive, according to a report by Federal Times.

The pilots will test new technologies such as fingerprinting and open-air pass-through scanners, including one project beginning November at the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego aimed at capturing biometric data on-the-move.

The “Pedestrian Border Experiment” will test multiple on-the-move and stop-and-pause technologies, especially those involving face and iris scans, which are able to record biometrics as travellers walk by on their way to the gate.

Over the course of the 30- to 45-day enrollment period, CBP will gather face and iris biometrics data on foreign travelers when they pass through customs on their way into the U.S.

The agency will then match these biometrics records against the open-air scans as travelers walk through the customs gate, confirming that the people leaving are in fact the same ones who previously entered the country.

“Our field trial is really going to give us a lot of insight to see if pass-through biometrics at this point is something viable for an open-air environment,” said EXT director Kim Mills.

If the pilot is a success, the pedestrian scanner could be employed as part of CBP’s multi-tiered plans to better integrate biometrics into its security measures at land borders and airports.

“It’s taking our constraints and see what could be applied to accomplish our mission but is not so cost prohibitive or so resource-intensive or has a huge footprint,” Mills said. “I have 3,000 departure gates across my top 20 airports … How can we innovate: how can we make things smaller, faster, better?”

Colleen Manaher, executive director of planning, program analysis and evaluation at CBP’s Office of Field Operations, discussed Morpho’s Finger on the Fly technology.

The contactless fingerprint scanner is able to record a fingerprint in about 4 seconds, which would be significantly faster than the current technology’s processing time of 26-30 seconds per person.

“Those are the kind of solutions that clearly could improve my process immediately,” Manaher said. “But I need industry to tell me and to drive innovation to meet my needs,” which includes speeding up the intake process and response time.

Once the information is collected, it needs to be transmitted to the watchlist for matching purposes and sent back to the CBP within seconds.

This is particularly crucial in the case of the exit program, which is required to process thousands of travellers as they leave the country.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.