U.S. opens travel biometrics technology testing center

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) opened its new test facility for biometric identification technology in Landover, Maryland last month.

The facility will test a range of biometric devices in a mock airport environment in order to determine the best performing devices.

The center is a joint effort between CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate to enhance air entry and exit processes.

Congress has repeatedly demanded a working biometric exit system since 2007, setting a deadline of 2009. That deadline came and went with only two small pilot programs. Since then, DHS has continued its slow move to meet this requirement in what the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has called “a long-standing challenge for DHS”.

As noted before in BiometricUpdate.com, CBP created a new office in May 2013 to advance biometric entry-exit transformation. The office’s stated mission is to enhance the integrity of the immigration system through strengthening processes that assure traveler identity. The goal of the new office is to accurately verify who arrives at U.S. ports of entry and to determine who is abiding by the terms of their admission and who is not, while enhancing border security and facilitating travel.

To accomplish this goal, CBP’s approach will include a “holistic assessment” of operational processes and an evaluation of a variety of technologies. This will include testing and deploying new biometric technologies, while building on existing biographic data collection; and implementing a non-intrusive technology that is transparent to the traveler.

The new facility in Landover is key to undertaking the technology and process assessment. The facility contains extensive observation capabilities, permitting the capture of both audio and visual data for analysis. The center is approximately also 10,000 square feet with three testing bays. Each bay is designed to accommodate any of the biometric air exit concepts of operation for evaluation and can evaluate 50 test subjects concurrently.

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