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EU-funded projects developing facial recognition avatar border guards, handheld scanners


European Dynamics is developing a facial recognition-based border control system that begins screening travelers before they even leave their home, according to a report by Robohub.

Anastasia Garbi, head of R&D at European Dynamics, said the technology allows travelers to use their personal computer, without expert or specialized scanners.

Travelers take photos of their passport, visa and proof of funds and upload them to a website. They can then use their webcam to answer a series of questions from the system’s digital avatar border guard.

The move provides officials with various facial images they can use to compare against stored images from a passport or past entries and exits, which is significantly more difficult to duplicate than a fingerprint.

“Even a fingerprint is easy to imitate and cheat,” Garbi said. “If you have a video capture, and you have some questions along with this, you get pictures of the reactions of the face of the traveller. This is very difficult to copy.”

If the technology is eventually completed and implemented, it should secure EU borders more effectively without resulting in long queues and inconvenience for travelers.

The avatar is able to use facial biometrics to analyze the non-verbal behavior of the traveler and determine if he or she is telling the truth.

The avatar then sends the traveler’s information to a secure back-end system which calculates an aggregated risk factor by comparing it with the stored data and the expression analysis.

The system will flag any high-risk individuals for further interrogation, while low risk factor travelers will receive a different classification.

Researchers at the University of Hannover in Germany are monitoring the technology’s privacy risks.

The R&D work is part of the EU-funded iCROSS project, which also plans to create handheld passport and palm scanners capable of detecting millions of biometric reference points.

In addition, researchers in Vienna have developed a working handheld scanning prototype that collects biometric data from a passport and reads passenger’s fingerprints and face biometrics.

The EU-funded MOBILEPASS project, headed by the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Vienna, is intended for countries that are unable to install an electronic gate at their borders for various logistical reasons.

The handheld device scans a finger held up in front of it, and securely transmits the data to a central database to compare the user’s fingerprints.

‘If a third-country-national visa-holding person wants to enter the European Union, he has to make a visa so he gives his photograph and his 10 fingerprints which are centrally stored in the visa system,’ said project coordinator Bernhard Strobl. ‘We are comparing fingerprints taken with a camera to fingerprints that have been taken with a flatbed scanner, and this was one of the biggest technical problems (to overcome).”

The use of dedicated hardware ensures that fingerprints can be processed faster than with a smartphone, as well as being a more hygienic method since it is contactless.

In the future, the MOBILEPASS device could potentially be equipped with retina scanners to verify traveler identities using iris recognition, or infrared scanners to detect body temperature and flag those individuals with an illness during monitoring of a public health epidemic.

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