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CBP Expects to Work Closely With Industry OIT Biometric Exit Acquisition

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently provided an "update" to industry on its plans for Biometric Exit since it issued its initial Request for Information (RFI), CBP OIT Biometric Exit Acquisition, issued June 20, 2016.

CBP noted it will “continue to engage with industry regarding Biometric Exit,” emphasizing that, “Collaboration with private industry will be essential to help successfully create and deliver the technology solutions to meet current and future Biometric Exit requirements.”

“There are a couple practices that jeopardize the security of air travel that have frankly been the status quo for far too long,” Neville Pattinson, SVP of Gemalto government programs, told Homeland Security Today. “First of all, we’ve put too much of an expectation and burden on human airline and airport employees by assuming that they will be able to judge, recognize and verify the authenticity of a complex ID document like a driver’s license or passport at check-in. Introducing biometric document verification to those checks gives us a much higher level of assurance from the start that ID documents are genuine and that they actually belong to the person holding them.”

“The second practice,” Pattinson said, “has to do with the fact that once a traveler has passed through Transportation Security Administration screenings, they only need a boarding pass to board an aircraft, meaning that the boarding pass can be rather easily abused for entry/exit purposes. The addition of biometrics at the jet way can close a potential gap in security. Biometrics – particularly facial recognition – could help remedy many scenarios in an unobtrusive way that can be applied to a group of moving faces (such as those boarding or disembarking) to identify known residents or flag persons of interest.”

Pattinson said, “The US government is looking to biometrically match the departure of non-US citizens via its US EXIT initiative. Facial biometric matching at international departure gates can provide confirmation of non-citizens’ departure by matching their face to the ID document used for entry into the country.”

And, “In parallel, the ability to match a traveler’s face with their government-issued ID document’s photo could give airlines and airports a mechanism to automate boarding at domestic gate departures, without the need to inconveniently check boarding passes. Domestic travelers’ faces would become their ‘boarding passes,’” Pattinson explained, adding, “Linking identities and ID documents to biometrics throughout the entire traveler’s experience can keep people moving, while also ensuring that they are being repeatedly verified as those individuals who are supposed to be flying.”

CBP explained in the RFI that it “has conducted four separate biometric field experiments to examine the operational viability of different biometric modalities and traveler processing procedures.”

These experiments included:

  • 1-to-1 Face Comparison: Collect and match facial images of travelers in real time to confirm the identity of individuals presenting a passport for admission to the United States;
  • Biometric Exit Mobile (BE-Mobile): Validate the feasibility of collection of departure biometrics utilizing hand held devices to quantify future exit law enforcement requirements;
  • Pedestrian Entry/Exit: Test the viability of facial and iris image capture in an outdoor land environment; and the
  • Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport Exit Experiment, Departure Information Systems Test (DIST): Test the viability of facial image capture at the airport departure gate to match travelers against the air passenger manifest.

“Utilizing the outcomes and successes from these experiments to inform the requirements for final solutions, CBP is now in the process of establishing a Biometric Entry-Exit Program of Record,” the agency stated, saying, “CBP’s initial focus is to develop a solution for the air environment that utilizes the traveler’s face to confirm departure against the air passenger manifest.”

CBP said it “is committed to delivering a solution at the top Gateway Airports beginning in 2018, and “are looking at innovative procurement options including public/private partnerships, smaller procurements, and leveraging DHS enterprise capabilities.”

“However,” CBP noted, it “does not envision one large systems integrator procurement to support air, land and sea environments.”

With “backend systems design and integration” within scope of current CBP contracts, the agency said that “utilizing” its “contract vehicle that delivered the Departure Information Systems Test, CBP is designing and building a back-end, facial recognition, cloud-based solution that will enable matching for biometric data stored by flight manifests.”

This back-end system will interface with airlines and other third party providers, CBP intends.

CBP said, “In late spring/early summer 2017, it “expects to expand capabilities tested in Atlanta in conjunction with the back-end cloud-based solution to eight (8) locations. Additionally, CBP is engaging closely with air travel partners to evaluate how CBP’s enhanced platform will integrate with their efforts to streamline the travel process.”

CBP said, “Industry will have many opportunities to support the Biometric Exit mission.” The agency said it foresees industry opportunities in the following areas:

  • Cloud services;
  • Facial Recognition matching software;
  • Equipment for entry lanes (fingerprint readers, cameras and ePassport Readers);
  • Program management support;
  • Innovation experiments (innovative alternatives to capture biometrics); and
  • Solutions for land and sea environments

CBP’s “update” to its RFI “is part of government to industry outreach, and is for industry planning and awareness only. It does not constitute a commitment, implied or otherwise, that a procurement action will follow.”

CBP will use any of the information submitted in response to its “update” notice “at its discretion and will not provide comments to any submission; however, CBP reserves the right to contact any respondent to this notice for the sole purpose of enhancing CBP’s understanding of the notice submission. The content of any responses to this notice may be reflected in any subsequent solicitation.”

While CBP is continuing work on future entry/exit procedures that will rely on facial recognition technology — meaning biometrics are likely poised to also play a more prominent role in air travel, Gemalto said in an announcement that “the change isn’t imminent, but airlines and airports can get ahead of the game and reduce human error in verifying identities, ID cards and passports by automating, streamlining and adding a layer of biometric security to check-in and their customers’ travel experiences."

Fly to Gate” is a partnership between Gemalto and transportation solutions provider IER is geared to help airlines and airports verify the authenticity of travel documents, confirm they belong to the person holding them (via facial recognition and matching) and ensure travelers and their bags are cleared from check-in all the way onto the flight.

Fly to Gate provides secure biometric authentication from check-in to boarding through a combination of hardware and software that automates document and ID verification processes for airports and airlines, is compliant to government requirements including biometrics and provides stringent security for immigration

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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