PART 1: How enabling technologies can help Australia meet all three objectives
The recent focus on improvements in border security is hardly surprising given the very real terrorism threat posed by foreign fighters and the socio-economic threat posed by individuals who attempt to enter Australia under false pretences. And given the significant projected growth in international cargo and passenger volumes (on which the Australian economy is highly dependent), the demand for faster, low-touch clearance processing is equally unsurprising. But on top of these two demands, budgetary pressures and resource limitations at our airports and seaports are now mandating dramatic cost efficiencies in the way Australia handles passenger and cargo clearance. “Something has to give”, some might say.
Establishing a single department responsible for Immigration and Border Control and the creation of the Australia Border Force as the operational arm of that Department, is an important first step in achieving these immutable objectives – improved border security, faster clearance and greater efficiency. But organisational and personnel change alone are not sufficient – and failure to achieve all three objectives is not an option. Not in Australia. Not in any growing economy.
Australia will only succeed in achieving all three objectives through the use of enabling technologies.
One such enabling technology is the automated clearance eGate. eGates reduce queuing and speed traveller clearance. eGates have been deployed and available to some arriving air travellers for years, but Australia is now upgrading and expanding the fleet of eGates to process far more travellers.
Another key enabling technology uses advanced biometrics to positively identify individuals who enter or depart Australia. Here again, Australia was an early adopter of biometrics for border security. Facial biometrics is used by eGates to verify travellers against the biometric data stored in ePassports. And fingerprint and face biometrics are used with some visa applications to detect fraud and check against watch lists of known criminals or visa offenders. But other countries like the US, Singapore and Malaysia have taken this further by capturing biometrics of travellers at the point of border entry/exit and conducting real-time searches of biometric databases to identify individuals on watch lists (e.g., known criminals) and to detect individuals who are using multiple identities or travel documents.
In the past, real-time “one-to-many” biometric matching of this scale was expensive, inaccurate or both. The enabling technology that now makes real-time biometric matching cost effective and accurate is iris recognition. Iris recognition uses a picture of the eye to match the detailed patterns in the coloured part of the eye surrounding the pupil. Iris recognition is faster and less expensive than other biometrics (enabling real time matching against millions of records) and highly accurate (akin to fingerprints and far more accurate than facial recognition). While there were few implementations of iris recognition a few years ago, today it is the biometric of choice for large scale biometric identification (such as the 100M person Mexico national ID and the 1.1B person Indian national ID). These large scale deployments have resulted in significant improvements in the technology and significant reductions in the cost. The introduction of iris biometrics into the traveller clearance process would contribute to all three objectives – improved security, faster clearance and greater efficiency.
In Part 2 of this blog series, I will look at taking this to the next level using advanced analytics to focus resources on the biggest risks.