An EU-funded project is developing an automated border-control system that will put travellers to the test using lie-detecting avatars. It is introducing artificial intelligence at border controls.
The project, called iBorderCtrl, will be tested at airports in Greece, Hungary and Latvia for passengers travelling from outside the EU.
More than 700 million people enter the EU every year – a number that is rapidly rising. The huge volume of travellers and vehicles is piling pressure on external borders, making it increasingly difficult for border staff to uphold strict security protocols – checking the travel documents and biometrics of every passenger – whilst keeping disruption to a minimum.
To help, the EU-funded project IBORDERCTRL is developing an ‘intelligent control system’ facilitating – making faster – border procedures for bona fide and law-abiding travellers. In this sense, the project is aiming to deliver more efficient and secure land border crossings to facilitate the work of border guards in spotting illegal immigrants, and so contribute to the prevention of crime and terrorism.
‘We’re employing existing and proven technologies – as well as novel ones – to empower border agents to increase the accuracy and efficiency of border checks,’ says project coordinator George Boultadakis of European Dynamics in Luxembourg. ‘IBORDERCTRL’s system will collect data that will move beyond biometrics and on to biomarkers of deceit.’
Smart ‘deception detection’
The IBORDERCTRL system has been set up so that travellers will use an online application to upload pictures of their passport, visa and proof of funds, then use a webcam to answer questions from a computer-animated border guard, personalised to the traveller’s gender, ethnicity and language. The unique approach to ‘deception detection’ analyses the micro-expressions of travellers to figure out if the interviewee is lying.
This pre-screening step is the first of two stages. Before arrival at the border, it also informs travellers of their rights and travel procedures, as well as providing advice and alerts to discourage illegal activity.
The second stage takes place at the actual border. Travellers who have been flagged as low risk during the pre-screening stage will go through a short re-evaluation of their information for entry, while higher-risk passengers will undergo a more detailed check.
Border officials will use a hand-held device to automatically cross-check information, comparing the facial images captured during the pre-screening stage to passports and photos taken on previous border crossings. After the traveller’s documents have been reassessed, and fingerprinting, palm vein scanning and face matching have been carried out, the potential risk posed by the traveller will be recalculated. Only then does a border guard take over from the automated system.
At the start of the IBORDERCTRL project, researchers spent a lot of time learning about border crossings from border officials themselves, through interviews, workshops, site surveys, and by watching them at work.
It is hoped that trials about to start in Hungary, Greece and Latvia will prove that the intelligent portable control system helps border guards reliably identify travellers engaging in criminal activity. The trials will start with lab testing to familiarise border guards with the system, followed by scenarios and tests in realistic conditions along the borders.
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