Smart Borders
24-25 June 2014

24-25 June 2014, we attended the ‘Smart Borders’ meetings in London, organised by Augmentiq, Fortinus and Agile Security Partners and sponsored by Accenture, SITA, SAS, SAP, Vision-Box and OptaSense. The two-day event brought together over 130 delegates from a variety of entities directly or indirectly involved in border management.

The conference was designed to “offer government agencies, international organisations, airlines and airports a global insight – building co-ordinated public and private border strategies that deliver greater security and a better customer experience”. It should be stressed that the emphasis on ‘smart borders’ was to be interpreted broadly as referring to the relationship between security and facilitation, and not to the specific EU initiative of the same name (, shared objectives of the two notwithstanding.

Government agencies represented at the conference included: UK National Crime Agency; UK Border Force; US Department of Homeland Security; Finnish Immigration Service; and French Customs. International organisations represented included: IATA (International Air Transport Association); Interpol; and EU-LISA (Agency for Large-Scale IT Systems). Representatives of companies and of some airlines and airports were also in attendance. The event was accompanied by a small exhibition of technological advancements of relevance, including automated border gates from Vision-Box, a major supplier of the UK airports.

The conference was organised as a combination of presentations, panels and workshops to allow participants to share their views and experiences and learn from the best practices, identify common problems and possible ways of addressing them. In fact, the need for closer co-operation between all stakeholders was continuously emphasised throughout the conference.

In his opening address, Matthew Finn (Auqmentiq) stressed, inter alia, that, while physical “borders are scars of history”, there is a growing appreciation that a border-crossing journey begins well before the physical border is crossed, e.g., from the moment of submitting a visa application or making an online travel booking.

The shift from a physical border to a virtual one was also emphasised by Krum Garkov (EU-LISA), who talked about the confluence of pressures on EU borders (including the increased mobility of people and the growing importance of the cross-border economy) and the need for smart borders, which are to meet high expectations in terms of scalability, performance, integration and flexibility. The vision for the smart borders includes such features as alignment of legislation and technology; interoperability; preserving added value of technology; a single point of decision-making; and privacy by design.

Marie-Caroline Laurent from IATA said that the airline industry’s vision of the future in terms of facilitation is “10 minutes to duty free” and “30 minutes to taxi”. While airlines are automating their processes as much as possible, they are also faced with increasing demands from the governments. To address the challenges that airlines face today, IATA has been working on the Smart Security initiative (formerly ‘Checkpoint of the Future’; , which involves both airlines and airports and is informed by a risk-based approach to security. The programme envisages, among other things, the universal introduction of e-passports with biometric identifiers, movement toward full automation (e-gates), growth in Registered Traveller Programmes and in interoperability between different programmes, and standardisation of data transfers, with the latter becoming more and more important in light of the growing number of states requiring PNR data and the push of responsibility for security towards the airline industry.

In his keynote address, Tony Smith (Fortinus) shared his experiences of being involved in responding to some major events, such as 9/11 and 7/7, and in ensuring security at the 2012 London Olympics. His contribution highlighted the fact that often border management is more a reactive than proactive exercise, as well as the one profoundly informed by politics, which can dramatically shift the balance between security and facilitation. These insights were echoed by Matthew Finn (Auqmentiq), who pointed out that, when it was used in 1988, API (Advanced Passenger Information) was considered, first and foremost, as a facilitation tool, but, after 9/11, when it became mandatory, it also began to be viewed as a predominantly security tool. Standards on data provision followed, as more and more countries were requiring API and then PNR (Passenger Name Record). The need for the EU PNR ( was also justified by the growing need for data sharing. In the data sharing environment, however, the question of who owns the overall view of the border becomes crucial.

Anne Sheridan (Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, Ireland) presented a critical view on the EU smart borders initiative, and, in particular, on the proposed entry/exit system. She outlined some of the main concerns expressed by the Article 29 Working Party (, including both principled (e.g., the large-scale database to be created is too big, while it is not fully justified not just in terms of an added value, but also representing a necessary and proportionate response to a particular problem; routine access for law enforcement purposes is problematic) and pragmatic (e.g., lack of follow-up measures related to apprehension and return of over-stayers, undermining the whole purpose of the entry/exit system, for the which a new large-scale database is to be created, combined with underutilisation of the existing capabilities, including already existing databases).

Christian Blumhoff (SAP) talked about the increasing need for managing border security in real-time and presented SAP border management solutions designed to establish the balance between security and facilitation. These ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions include: access control; information governance; rules management; process integration; and reporting and analytics.

Another ‘off-the-shelf’ border-management solution presented was that by SAS. It allows for data management; watch-list matching; rules creation and application; risk profiling; and intelligence and case management. In terms of matching, SAS solution combines probabilistic and deterministic matching, and in terms of profiling, it supports clustering, association and sequence analysis and network analysis.

Campbell Mcghee (Interpol) provided an overview of the databases that Interpol has at the disposal of its member states. In this respect, the presentation highlighted the existing resources that are often underutilised in border management. Mcghee also introduced a new project on facial recognition. Given the crucial issue of image quality, standardisation will be required, especially if the new system is to be used for border controls, but there are plans already to enable linking to the image bank via biometrics.

Gareth Williams from Eurostar stressed that enthusiasm related to the future expansion of Eurostar’s European services is mitigated by the challenges posed by the security checks in complex border configuration, especially in light of time constraints. His presentation was a stark illustration of the tension between security and facilitation, made even more acute in the specific border context. He concluded his presentation by saying “during this 20 minute presentation we have boarded 900 passengers, and now there are 900 more outside the door awaiting our attention… Biometric, data cloud sorcery is great but, in the meantime, I have the real world to manage”.

Serge Rinkel from Borderpol talked about the great challenges of combatting cross-border crime in Africa and made a plea not to ignore these challenges, especially in light of the devastating impact of global crime networks that do not respect either national or regional borders. He called for more technical assistance and co-operation between border management experts from the developed countries and their counterparts in Africa.

Roman Vanek (Federal Office of Police, Switzerland, and ICAO PKD (International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Public Key Directory), stressed the need for all countries to participate in ICAO PKD, which allows verification of signatures in e-passports, because without such verification security associated with e-passports is undermined. According to Vanek, verification through PKD should be an essential element of the integrated border management, along with consulting national watch-lists, Interpol databases, EU SIS and VIS and using API and PNR data. Currently, PKD covers 76% of all e-passports issued by ICAO member states.

Overall, some of the overarching issues discussed at the conference included: the need for an improved dialogue and closer co-operation, including data sharing, between all the entities involved directly and indirectly in border management; the need for more clarity regarding the objectives of newly commissioned border management systems, and for the industry’s input in terms of informing the decision-making; the need to make better use of the already existing capabilities, including databases; the need for developing standards to enhance systems interoperability and support increased data sharing; the need for sharing, and learning from, good practices; and the need for a wider involvement of the general public in decisions about how and to what ends borders should be managed.

Further details about the Conference are available: