Man in uniform standing at counter at checking point and watching at monitor with x-ray of luggage
Image: © EvgeniyShkolenko | iStock

Digital borders could enhance security, greater transparency, and facilitate a contactless and queueless arrival in the UK

Last year, the Home Office set out its ambitions to create “a border that is fit for the 21st century” and automate large swathes of the existing digital borders processes, so that the Border Force can “use their specialised skills on protecting [the] border from those who seek to harm the UK.”

As part of this initiative, the Government will roll out a new “permission to travel” scheme for international visitors, starting in late 2023. Similar to the USA’s ESTA, the UK’s ETA will enable pre-travel screening of passengers and digital borders to enhance security and facilitate a contactless and queueless arrival.

Pre-travel screening of passengers and digital borders to enhance security

With countries like Canada, the USA and Australia already operating well-established Travel Authorisation schemes, and others like the UAE and Singapore boasting increasingly digital and mobile-friendly border crossings, the good news is that the UK doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel.

By cherry-picking the successes from around the world, and benefitting from some of the lessons learned, the UK can ensure a smooth transition, while delivering a world-class experience and ensuring maximum security.

A single digital border platform to manage visitors

With the rollout of the new ETA for visa-free travellers, the UK will soon have unprecedented information about each person who will travel before they arrive.

Yes, this will be invaluable for security and resource allocation at the airport, but where the real opportunity comes in, is having the ability to view and manage each and every single traveller on the same platform – essentially viewing Visa-required and ETA travellers side-by-side in real-time.

Why does that matter? Greater information means greater security when it comes to the border and a single platform will enable greater transparency, more collaboration between the Border Force and other agencies, and faster decision-making – which means shorter queues on arrival.

Travizory’s Visitor Management Platform does exactly that, offering a bird’s eye view of each carrier (plane, ship, train) combined with a deep dive for individual travellers for vetting. It empowers the Border Force to identify and focus on the proverbial “needle in the haystack” risky traveller while expediting border crossing for the majority of travellers who pose no risk to the UK.

Eliminating silos will be a great advantage when securing the border from increasingly sophisticated and evolving threats.

Harnessing the benefits of facial matching from the outset

In a big move, the UK Government is now trialling the extension of eGates to 10-year-olds – this is expected to significantly reduce queueing times on arrival and make entry easier for citizens.

Over the longer term, however, the objective is to roll out walk-through “contactless corridors”, which will allow travellers to enter the country using their faces alone.

The objective is to roll out walk-through “contactless corridors”

You might think that this innovation is lightyears away, but in truth systems like this are already being used to great success in airports such as Dubai and in Seychelles. While in Dubai the service is limited to specific groups of travellers, Seychelles has rolled out state-of-the-art walk-through biometrics for all inbound travellers – visitors and citizens alike.

Embracing advanced automation tools like facial matching cameras from the outset could be a real advantage for the UK, eliminating the need to stop and wait at an eGate and facilitating even faster arrivals. Instead of tinkering with semi-outdated technologies, the UK could position itself as a true technology leader by removing eGates from the equation altogether.

British immigration concept with Lunar House building the Home Office Visas and Immigration Office in Greater London, England, UK
Image © moussa81 | istock

Moving to the cloud can also benefit digital borders

What happens in the event of another pandemic? How are no-fly lists updated to mitigate threats or enable the Government to implement sanctions?

Most border agencies today rely on outdated and overly-cumbersome on-premise systems to do their work. While these legacy solutions were fit for purpose a decade or two ago, they are no longer meeting the needs of a 21st century border – this includes limited adaptability and customization to the needs of each government.

The advent of cloud-based technologies opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the UK border, delivering a modern, forward-thinking approach to security. The move to cloud-based solutions has already been identified as the way forward, with cloud solutions adopted by the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in the USA and the UN. With Travizory’s SaaS border solution, Seychelles authorities were able to respond to new COVID variants in real time, updating no-fly lists in a matter of minutes.

Artificial Intelligence for safer digital borders

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies are disrupting almost every sector, globally – with recent reports about ChatGPT illustrating how far into the mainstream AI has come and is being adopted. AI supports border agents in reviewing, verifying and validating vast amounts of data to make border screening more efficient. But it can also improve security, by making preliminary assessments about possible threats, flagging “high-risk” individuals, profiling known unknowns and recommending how authorities should respond.

When combined with a manual review, AI-powered border systems can be extremely powerful and effective. Both when it comes to addressing existing threats and risks and predicting and adapting to new and evolving ones. Travizory incorporates automated profiling engines using watchlists, rules and artificial intelligence to deliver a market-leading solution directly to governments.

As AI becomes more and more commonplace, governments will have to wake up to the important role that it can play at the border. Any brand new “digital” border system implemented without AI in a central role, risks being obsolete from the moment it launches.

Any brand new “digital” border system implemented without AI in a central role, risks being obsolete

It’s clear that there are many examples the Home Office can look to for inspiration as the UK Government takes steps to achieve its vision of digital borders. While completely contactless digital borders may seem entirely conceptual to some, the experience of other countries would indicate that it is not as out of reach as it may seem.

Strong leadership combined with high-level expertise will be a winning formula when it comes to picking the right approach, identifying the best partners and adopting the most advanced technologies.

This piece was written and provided by Ygor Lutz, Chief Revenue Officer & Co-Founder, Travizory Border Security


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