Houston International Airport – Customs officers take a closer look at faces

Customs and Border Protection is analyzing the distance between travelers’ eyes and the width of their foreheads to better track international travelers.

This week the agency began using facial recognition technology at Bush Intercontinental Airport on one daily flight departing Houston for Tokyo.

“The use of biometrics is approaching an almost everyday type of experience,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry research company. “It’s much more common now than it was 10 to 20 years ago.”

Similar technology is increasingly used everywhere. For instance, fingerprints are used to unlock phones and access secure banking information. Facebook can automatically recognize and tag friends in photos. And a variety of airport entities, ranging from airlines to the Transportation Security Administration, also are using biometric data to enhance security and expedite traveling.

Some still question the reliability of facial recognition technology, but it has evolved over the years and continues improving.

Delta and JetBlue recently announced collaborations with Customs and Border Protection to integrate facial recognition technology as part of the boarding process. And Customs began piloting its own facial recognition technology in June 2016 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The technology then was rolled out at Washington Dulles International Airport in May 2017, and seven additional airports will receive the technology in the next several months.

Customs “sees potential for the technology to transform the travel process provided privacy issues can be addressed,” an agency spokesperson said in an email.

“The use of biometrics to confirm identity from the beginning to the end of travel has the potential to reduce the frequency travelers have to present travel documents throughout the airport.”

Currently, the system takes pictures of individual travelers right before they board an international flight. That photo is then compared with a flight-specific photo gallery Customs and Border Protection created using travel documents passengers provided to the airline.

Officials say capturing this type of biometric information will ensure travelers aren’t lying about their identity. And the agency spokesperson emphasized that Customs worked closely with its privacy office. If the photo captured at boarding is matched to a U.S. passport, the photo of that traveler – having been confirmed as a U.S. citizen – is discarded after a short period of time.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any resistance by consumers to this,” Harteveldt said, “provided they’re given very clear explanations about what information is being collected, why it’s being collected and a high-level understanding of the safeguards that will be taken to keep their biometrics data safe and secure.”

 Opinions vary on whether capturing such data from departing travelers will boost security or hurt airlines’ on-time performance. But the point is moot. Laws requiring exit control have been on the books for many years.

“It is already required by law, and it has taken way too long to implement an effective exit technology,” said Andrew Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that pushes for stricter immigration controls.

He said monitoring foreign travelers as they leave the U.S. helps enforce immigration laws. And if visitors enter the country legally but officials later realize they pose a threat, this exit system will tell officials if they are still in the U.S.

Harteveldt, however, said passport and visa information is already collected when travelers leave the country. He doesn’t believe biometrics are needed.”I’m just not sure it adds a lot of value to the exit process,” he said.

But compared with fingerprint technology, Harteveldt said facial scanning can be faster and cleaner. There’s no need to touch anything. Customs officers at Bush Intercontinental began taking the fingerprints of some departing international travelers in 2015.

Anthony Roman, president of global investigation and risk management firm Roman & Associates, said the best type of security is layered and uses cross-verification, such as a Customs and Border Protection officer checking passports, fingerprinting machines and facial recognition technology.

As for the latter, he said developers claim to have solved problems found in the older facial recognition technology. These past problems included false readings caused by a shadow on the face, blinking at the wrong time or even grimacing. Algorithms were also slow at processing the data.

The new technology is supposed to be faster and more accurate. “Whether that’s true or not, time will tell,” Roman said.

Arthur is still waiting to see that facial recognition technology is as reliable as fingerprinting. He wants to know the number of false positives and if facial recognition technology is affected by haircuts, beards or glasses.

They both agree, however, that the vigilance is warranted.

“Our technology needs to keep evolving,” Roman said. “We need to keep changing what we’re doing. It makes it more difficult for the insurgents to create long-term research and development projects to overcome existing technology.” Source: Houston Chronicle

New screening system to stop Customs queues at Mumbai airport

India customs_SnapseedIn a bid to make security checks less frazzling for international fliers after their arrival in the city, the Mumbai airport Customs have adopted an advanced in-line screening system to avoid inconveniencing commuters in the green channel. Installed two weeks ago, the system will also help improve screening procedure.

Earlier, every single item of luggage was screened at the Customs exit points, which led to long queues where passengers had to wait for hours before they could exit. With the new advanced screening system installed at the starting point of conveyor belts, the luggage will be screened before it is put on the belt from where the passenger picks it up and walks through the green channel.

“Earlier, there used to be a huge queue at the Customs checkpoints as each and every bag was screened there, and if anything was found to be suspicious, the screening for the following bags was stalled, putting other passengers on hold. With the new system, a foolproof screening would be done before the baggage makes it to the conveyor belt,” said a Mumbai airport Customs official, on the condition of anonymity.

“During screening, if any suspicious or undeclared items are found, the baggage would be marked and put on the conveyor belt. The Customs officer inspecting the luggage would pick it up to ensure that duty fine is imposed or appropriate action is taken,” the official said.

Apart from this, the new system would also be able to screen items concealed in packing, which were not detected by the earlier system and needed a manual check.

Officials further revealed that the Customs department is expecting ISO certification, one of the reasons why the new system was adopted. Apart from this, the Customs have also appointed a nodal agency to take feedback from passengers about the new system. Additional Commissioner Mahendra Pal (Air Intelligence Unit), Mumbai airport Customs, said, “We have adopted a new system which would reduce passenger inconvenience and help make screening better.” Source: www.ndtv.com

Advanced security imaging technology

DebTech is the technology business unit of De Beers, one of the top ranking diamond mining companies in the world. DebTech specialises in the development, manufacture, supply and worldwide support of innovative products and services for applications in diamond exploration, sorting and security.

The Scannex full body, low dose, X-ray scanning system was developed during the early 1990s for the primary purpose of deterring the theft of diamonds by diamond mine employees. The Scannex unit has application in many areas where contraband detection is required, such as airports, international sports events, prisons, border control and other high security installations.

The system produces high resolution and high contrast full body X-ray images of personnel. A single scan takes approximately ten seconds and the person being scanned remains stationary and is protected from the moving parts of the machine. The X-ray level required per scan is equivalent to that experienced on a two hour international flight. This allows an individual to be scanned up to 200 times per year and still not exceed the US Department of Health recommended safe limit for public exposure. The images are displayed on digital monitors and trained image analysts are able to identify items of a nonanatomical nature that may be concealed on or within the body.

To assist in the identification of foreign objects, human anatomical features are de-emphasized in the displayed images. This has the additional advantage of protecting the dignity of the individual being scanned. The display software comes standard with several image enhancement functions to further assist identification of suspect items. The display system is designed such that the viewing monitors can be located remotely from the scanning booth. This not only contributes to the protection of the scanned subject’s privacy but also decreases the opportunity for collusion between the scanned subject,the scanner operator and the image analyst. Up to four monitors may be connected to a single scanner to increase the rate of people being scanned. At the De Beers Namibian operations up to 90 scans per hour have been regularly achieved through one unit.

The Scannex system is optimised to differentiate diamond,a material with relatively low X-ray absorption properties, from human anatomical features. This also enables the system to indicate the presence of other materials with similar low X-ray absorption properties, such as explosives, drugs, plastic fluid containers and syringes. Metallic items, including knives, guns and detonator wire are very prominent in the full body images by virtue of their significantly higher X-ray absorption properties.

For counter terror and border control applications that do not require the high performance characteristics of the original Scannex unit, DebTech is currently developing a smaller footprintand lower capital cost addition to the Scannex range. This is planned to be available late 2012. For the full report click here! Sources: Port Technology International and debtech.com