Beginning in January 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at JFK International Airport started using facial recognition technology to match travelers’ faces to the photo on their passport. This exciting technology is a significant step forward in conducting biometric verification of every person requesting admission to the United States.
In a critical step forward with far-reaching implications affecting the security of airline passengers around the world, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deployed a system for biometric authentication of electronic passports. This technology allows for a highly accurate biometric matching of a traveler’s face with the facial image stored on the identification document’s e-chip, thus preventing document swapping.
Vision-Box, a leading company in the area of biometric traveler facilitation, is providing the core biometric technology, the vb e-pass desktop, as part of a facial recognition solution provided to CBP by Unisys Corporation, a leading global IT firm, for this initial deployment at three JFK arrival terminals. This deployment follows the successful testing of the same system at Washington’s Dulles International Airport.
The deployed solution supports a simple process: After authenticating and reading the chip of the traveler’s electronic passport, the vb e-pass desktop takes a biometric quality photo of the passenger’s face, matches the captured facial image against the photo stored in the e-passport, and gives a probability match based on multiple facial features. If the image match probability is low, the passenger may be flagged for additional screening.
Dr. Michael Petrov, Vision-Box North America Managing Director, commented, “By the end of this year every non-expired U.S. passport in circulation will be electronic, while the majority of them already are. The deployed solution completes the lifecycle loop of the e-passport by providing reliable means of checking that the passport belongs to the holder, thus helping address a significant security threat of document swapping with unfortunate precedents documented in other parts of the world. It was reported, for example, that a known Australian jihadist was able to leave Australia for the battlefield in Syria using his brother’s passport. His travel could have been prevented with the use of vb e-pass desktop.”
The accuracy of the system is ensured by strict compliance with ISO standards for image capture and the use of one of the industry’s best face matching algorithms. The biometric e-passport issuance is guided by ICAO recommendations, which in turn are based on ISO standards of biometric image quality. Full embracement of the ISO biometric standards in Vision-Box vb e-pass desktop solution ensures consistent photographic capture accuracy by using software-controlled multidirectional lighting and automated camera height adjustment based on the face position.
The face matching algorithm integrated into the system provides accurate results even when the photograph in the passport’s chip is of substandard quality. This algorithm proved itself as a winner of several recent NIST vendor evaluations, and it was further tested during the field trial in the aforementioned Dulles Airport pilot. Essentially, the system answers the question, “What’s the statistical probability that the document does not belong to the holder?”, and ultimately, “Is this person who they say they are?”
The combination of these key technologies ensures the highest quality of biometrically captured data, integrated inside a unit designed to assure travelers of the fidelity and reliability of biometric identification.
Complementing the new process at immigration booths, Vision-Box has already started installing face matching technology at APC (Automated Passport Control) kiosks used by CBP for the inbound immigration processing at a dozen of the largest US international airports, with Orlando International Airport becoming the first to go live in October 2015.