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Pervasive and UseR Focused BiomeTrics BordEr ProjeCT

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PROTECT (Pervasive and UseR Focused BiomeTrics BordEr ProjeCT)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-08-31

Traveller numbers and air, land and sea border crossings are increasing. At the same time, border authorities are continually faced with reduced resources. If all travellers remain subject to manual checks or even Automated Border Control (i.e. eGates), queues will become unacceptably long.

The 3-year (2016-2019) PROTECT project was funded by the EC to explore how advances in biometric technology promises improved security solutions for borders while simultaneously improving the traveller’s experience through expedited crossing of the border. Specifically, the PROTECT system investigated and proposed new less obtrusive approaches to biometric data capture and verification, particularly the use of emerging and contactless biometrics including hand vein, periocular and anthropometrics, as well as in combination with existing mature biometrics including 2D face.

Moreover, the PROTECT project explored how traveller identification may be performed on-the-move whereby the identification process takes indoors, for example within a biometric corridor, or outdoors with travellers in vehicles. Multiple biometrics are stored securely on a traveller’s smartphone (or advanced passport) and securely transmitted to the border control system on arrival at the border crossing. As the traveller approaches the border live biometrics are captured and verified using an advanced identification system which includes the means to detect attempts by travellers to fool or evade the identification process.

Since greater use of personal [biometric] data impacts upon human rights, the PROTECT project also undertook an honest and assertive study of what the risks are to privacy and how these risks are mitigated and balanced by improving the travel experience and security of the citizen.

By the end of the project, PROTECT succeeded to build, demonstrate and evaluate, both from a technical and user perspective, a new biometrics on-the-move traveller identification system which improves the security and efficiency of the border identification process, is applicable to land, sea and air borders, and incorporates strong user-centric features.
Based on technical requirements derived from the user requirements established early on the project, the PROTECT overall system architecture was designed and implemented. A key innovation, the Biometric Capture Area (BCA), was conceived, specified and developed incorporating a multimodal biometric sensor network applicable to travellers on-foot (principally at air/sea borders) and land with travellers in vehicles (at land borders). Additionally, for the air/sea border use case, a novel person re-identification system was developed to support tracking of travellers within the BCA.

Mobile passports (on smartphones), and advanced passports incorporating multimodal biometrics, were researched and developed enabling identity verification on-the-move. Individual biometric devices were further developed, and new privacy enhancing (especially template protection) and counter spoofing methods were researched.

A demonstration system was built up applicable to both the air/sea border as well as the land border, integrating the various technological components. A traveller enrolment kiosk was designed and implemented. Extensive performance and vulnerability analysis was undertaken. A number of technical and user validation sessions were conducted with consortium and ELAG members only. Two successful final demonstrations were held, one at the Polish Border Guard training centre in Ketrzyn, Poland and the second with the UK Border Force and Eurostar in London, UK, involving external stakeholders and consortium staff. In total more than 60 external stakeholders attended the demonstrations with very positive feedback. No real travellers were involved in the demonstrations.

A key part of the project work was also to undertake a thorough investigation of privacy and data protection, ethical and social issues raised by contactless and multimodal biometric systems

PROTECT disseminated its research and innovations to a wide range of audiences including the scientific community, industry, policy makers, investors, end users, and the general public. 52 scientific publications including journals and conference proceedings were published, and the project participated to 38 conferences, 15 workshops, and 26 other events.

PROTECT produced a significant number of exploitable results both at the level of the overall PROTECT system as well as individual biometric innovations. With respect to potential markets, PROTECT results are relevant both to border control as well as applications requiring large scale identity verification (e.g. ticketless barriers). Such market opportunities are being actively pursued, in particular by the main project industrial partner.
PROTECT progressed beyond the state-of-the-art in a number of ways including:
1. New concepts and processes researched, developed and documented for less intrusive, faster, usable, accurate and secure biometric border identification systems.
2. Design and development of a novel PROTECT system architecture (based on privacy-by-design) and border guard interface.
3. Thorough investigation of privacy and data protection, ethical and social issues raised by contactless and multimodal biometric systems deployed in the context of border control.
4. Innovations in individual [contactless] biometric recognition methods, sensor hardware development, and presentation attack detection.
5. Research and assessment of innovative privacy enhancing technologies, counter spoofing, person re-identification and multimodal biometric fusion.
6. Innovations in advanced Passports) / virtualisation of travel documents with smartphones.
7. Demonstration, performance evaluation and acceptability assessment of PROTECT overall air/sea border and land border demonstration systems
8. Databases and standards: new biometric databases (including the PROTECT multimodal database) have been produced, a cross-spectrum iris/periocular recognition competition was organized, and contribution made to standards development in biometrics on-the-move.

The main impact of the PROTECT project is on the technical and business levels since the objective of the research and prototyping is to improve border crossing efficiency (for the benefit of travellers and the travel industry) and effectiveness and economy (for government agencies). There will also be opportunities for the European technology industry as current systems of Automated Border Control are refreshed after the five or so year life cycle: PROTECT can adds impetus to the technical refresh process. The market for such systems is not limited to Europe – North America, the Middle and Far East and emerging economies are also very aware of the benefit of strong but flexible border systems. The focus on privacy also impacts legislation and policy makers, as well end users via enhanced identification systems. Overall, PROTECT has achieved significant impact given its ground-breaking concepts and promise of seamless travel (with virtually zero transaction times) for travellers and enhanced facilitation and security for border authorities. PROTECT has facilitated debate amongst all relevant stakeholders and influenced developments worldwide.
Project demonstration at London St. Pancras international train station
Project demonstration in Kętrzyn, Poland