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Biometrics could be the future of U.S. Customs and Border Protection traveller screening


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is beginning to see some results from its technology-driven mission to make international customs and immigration checkpoints less of a hassle but still as effective.

The drive to make travel checkpoints more streamlined has been part of President Obama’s “Year of Action”, and has involved the implementation of new technology in several major airports. Two of these initiatives have been Automated Passport Control (or APC) kiosks, and Mobile Passport Control.

APC first launched last year in Vancouver and now it is found in 23 North American airports. The self-service kiosks partly automate the inbound immigration checks for US and Canadian passport holders and travelers from visa waiver countries.

According to the CBP, wait times at some APC locations have decreased by as much as 25 to 40 percent, despite a steady increase in international arrivals.

The latest version of the APC kiosks includes biometric technology, and is being implemented in airports in Vancouver, Orlando, and Austin. The kiosk will direct travelers to provide digital fingerprints and will compare that biometric data with the fingerprints on file.

Meanwhile, a Mobile Passport Control app is currently being tested at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Daniel Tanciar, the director of the CBP’s travel and tourism initiatives, told the website Future Travel Experience that this technology will become widespread and make a tangible difference to the passenger experience.

Similar to the APC rollout that preceded it, the Mobile Passport Control app does not require pre-approval, carries no fee, and does not collect any new information on travelers.

Tanciar noted that biometrics will play a core role in future improvements to the CBP’s checkpoint procedures, but such iterations need to be proven effective and not undermine privacy.

In June, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced a new 10,000-square-foot test facility that is being using to evaluate biometrics and other technologies and processes in realistic airport settings.

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