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Security

US agencies push for broader adoption of facial biometrics

07 January 2019
US security officials think that facial biometrics will become a routine feature for passenger processing at airports in the next few years. Pictured is the kerb-to-gate biometric system launched in December 2018 for Delta Air Lines passengers in Terminal F at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Source: Delta Air Lines

CBP and TSA are joining forces with airlines to improve passenger processing at airports

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is working with more US air carriers to adopt facial biometrics, while Customs and Border Protection (CBP) expands its use of the technology.

For more than a decade, the US federal government has striven to develop a practical and cost-effective Biometric Entry/Exit system that fulfills a congressional mandate.

CBP is responsible for designing and implementing a system that could biometrically track travellers entering and exiting the US; after running multiple pilot programmes, it determined that facial recognition is the best method. CBP found that facial recognition cameras are intuitive for users and quicker than other biometric methods. The camera itself is relatively compact and inexpensive, and as CBP already has a database of passport photos for biometric comparison, it can accelerate the image-matching process.

Having successfully tested facial recognition for Biometric Exit, plans are under way to update biometric inbound technology so that CBP officers can use the same system for arrivals to the US.

Dan Tanciar, deputy executive director for policy, programme analysis, and evaluation in the CBP Office of Field Operations, said these are “interesting times in the world of biometrics, specifically facial recognition”.

CBP is in the final stages of planning the rollout of Biometric Entry. “In early 2019, we will ramp up our Biometric Entry development efforts. Without giving away too much, we will do a 90-day interval, leading up to a deployment at a particular airport, roughly another 90 days out,” he said.

Ahead of the rollout, CBP will undertake a complete inventory of computers, monitors, and document and fingerprint readers “to make sure everything is in good working order to attempt biometric entry”, added Tanciar.

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