White paper written by Joel Engardio for Tascent

The Effectiveness of Multimodal Biometrics at the Border

The Importance of Efficient Border Control
Border officers face great challenges. They are burdened with the responsibility of being a nation’s first line of defense. The threat of global terrorism and a lack of security in war-torn and economically unstable countries put immense pressure on our border control. Yet operating budgets do not match the rise in travel volume. One billion people cross international borders each year and the lines continue to grow.

Consider the border crossing near San Diego. The wait to pass between the U.S. and Mexico can take hours. Border agents are overworked. Travelers are stressed and tired. The inefficiencies also affect the flow of goods across the border, which can have a negative impact on the economy.

"Basically, we have 20th century infrastructure and for the most part, a 19th century policy, trying to facilitate trade in the 21st century,” John Cook, the director of the Border Mayors Association, was quoted in an Associated Press news report about the need to make border crossings more efficient.

By contrast, the Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a marvel in efficiency as it processes 80 million travelers each year. Cutting edge technology makes it possible.

The UAE uses multimodal biometrics at all its borders, screening people by looking at their eyes, faces and fingerprints. With immigrants comprising 85 percent of the population, the UAE has a need for both speed and certainty at its busy borders.

Tascent believes that every border can have the experience that the UAE enjoys. Since 2015, Tascent has been providing the tools for officers to work smarter while making border crossings more secure and efficient. This paper outlines the five benefits of multimodal biometrics at the border.

What is Multimodal Biometrics?
Biometrics is no longer relegated to futuristic science fiction movies. Today, people use biometrics every day to unlock their smartphone. Facial, iris and fingerprint biometrics are security options on mobile devices from manufacturers like Apple and Samsung. Our fingerprints, faces and eyes have unique qualities that ensure we are who we say we are. That’s why any one of these biometrics goes a long way in providing security.

Multimodal biometrics refers to simultaneously utilizing multiple types of independent biometrics: fingerprint, facial recognition and iris scan. For example, capturing both a person’s face and iris provides two layers of secure authentication. With that, you’ve adopted multimodal biometrics for even greater assurance you have identified the right person. But multimodal does not mean multiple impressions or captures of a single biometric, such as many photos of a person’s face. It also doesn’t mean additional samples of the same modality (for example, capturing five fingerprints instead of two.)

Five Benefits of Multimodal Biometrics at the Border
Multimodal biometrics proves its value as an efficient solution for securely processing individuals in high-stakes environments, such as border crossings, for the following benefits:

Border patrol officers can be more accurate through multimodal fusion — the combination of matching results for multiple independent biometric inputs. Identifying against more than one biometric characteristic significantly increases confidence level that the right individual has been matched.

It’s extremely difficult to spoof a fingerprint, face and iris at the same time. With multimodal fusion, you are resistant to spoofing. This also includes facial morphing — when a passport has a composite facial image of two or more subjects so more than one person can use the same passport. This has been a significant concern for border control.

Better Watchlists Matching
Watchlists, like the U.S. No Fly list, based on biometrics are strengthened by a multimodal approach that includes fingerprints, faces and iris. This prevents false positive identification of low-risk travelers, while future-proofing compatibility of different countries’ watchlists.

Not all biometrics are suited to all scenarios — even within an airport. Multimodal biometrics gives a border control officer the flexibility to determine the optimal combination of biometrics to apply in a given situation, or scale up security during times of high alert.

Multimodal biometrics allows agencies to provide better service by accommodating customer preferences. For example, head coverings worn by many women Middle Eastern countries make facial recognition difficult. But an iris scan and fingerprint biometric will definitively prove who a person is without asking them to remove their head covering. Another example is better accommodation of senior citizens, since fingerprints in people over the age of 75 are usually not defined enough for a scanner to read. In this case, an iris scan and facial recognition would better accommodate an older population.

Multimodal Adoption Concerns
There are three main concerns to using a multimodal approach: complexity, high cost and usability confusion.

  • Complexity: A single modality will always be simpler than dealing with multiple biometrics. Multimodal systems are becoming less complex, however, as devices designed to seamlessly integrate facial recognition, iris and fingerprint scans come to market.
  • High Cost: Using additional devices will always cost more. The price also goes up the more sophisticated the device. However, there are solutions available, such as the Tascent InSight One. It reduces the cost of multimodal biometrics by being able to capture face and scan an iris in a single impression.
  • Usability Confusion: The more asked of the traveler, especially those who do not fly or cross borders regularly, the more confused they will be about what to do when presented with biometric scans. To address this concern head-on, Tascent provides solutions that maximize automation and minimize user engagement for quick and secure enrollment.

Multimodal Biometrics — New Normal, New Standard
Thanks to ongoing improvements in technology and increased consumer comfort with technology, multimodal biometrics systems are easier to implement than ever.

  • Better Hardware: Biometric solutions are being designed with multimodality in mind. This means that capability and usability are being optimized for efficient multimodal capture. For example, in just two seconds, the Tascent InSight One automatically captures face and scans iris, while providing an unobtrusive experience for the participant.
  • Cost: With devices integrating multimodal capture, cost implications are reduced since the need of multiple devices for different biometric capture is not always needed.
  • New Normal: Multimodality is now considered the standard for Automated Biometric Identification Systems whether they are cloud-based or not.
  • Customer Preference: Immigration is increasingly seen as a customer-centric process, and customers expect the most appropriate technologies to be used. Multimodality is a great way to meet those expectations.

How Biometrics Are Meeting Border Challenges
In Australia, government spending on border patrol has decreased, forcing officers to rely on technology and be more innovative in their approach

“We’re working in an environment where volumes and complexity are increasing, but budgets are decreasing,” Randall Brugeaud, the chief information officer of Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection, was quoted in an Accenture report. “This requires us to think very differently about the way we deliver technology services.”

At Tascent, we understand the challenge of meeting ever-increasing security needs in a politically-charged climate of budget uncertainties. Border officers around the world are being asked to “do more with less.”

But when agencies adopt multimodal biometrics, border officers can work more efficiently without adding to their workload and stress. For budget-conscious agencies, Multimodal biometrics are a worthy investment because they save money in long run. Most importantly, multimodal biometrics effectively prove a person’s identity. This will ensure the safest borders when the threat of global terrorism is high.

Putting Multimodal Biometrics in Practice

Field Test: The Visa Applicant
In this case, let’s imagine how multimodal biometrics can help a visa applicant be processed more effectively at the border, even if they are a mid-to-high risk traveler. The steps are outlined below:

Phase 1: Application

  • A multimodal approach allows for a robust deduplication process when applying for a visa. The visa office can check fingerprints, faces, and eyes against the largest possible dataset to eliminate duplicate or redundant information. Multimodal biometrics also allows flexible options for identification with users who may not have well-defined fingerprints (people over age 75) or users who wear head coverings and are better identified with an iris scan.
  • Enabled by mobile or desktop systems, customers can apply in the convenience of their home.

Phase 2: Entry Processing

  • Border agents can capture someone’s face and iris simultaneously.
  • An iris scan is a unique identifier that provides 1:N or one-to-many identification. 1:N proves someone’s identity by comparing a biometric scan against a universal database versus 1:1 verification that compares a biometric scan to one already linked to the person.
  • Facial recognition can link to current systems in broad use.
  • Touchless and intuitive devices are suited to high-volume “eGates” and counters.
  • With a multimodal approach, customers don’t have to present any documents at the border.

Phase 3: Visa Screening
Using multimodal biometrics for visa screening allows border officers to do the best possible job of deduplicating and checking against biometric watchlists. The multimodal approach takes the pain out of the border crossing experience — for officers and travelers alike. Officers can be confident of more secure identity matches while being more efficient. Travelers will appreciate speedier processing.

The technological and cost barriers to multimodal biometrics are rapidly coming down. Affordable mobile devices already exist — such as InSight One (see sidebar). These devices enable fingerprint, iris and face capture that meet ISO standards set by the International Organization of Standardization. This means enrollment can now come to the customer. They can apply for a visa from the convenience of home.

Upon arrival at the border, simultaneous face and iris biometrics provide highly-accurate and resilient matching, with better deduplication and watchlisting making for safer borders. Because of the accuracy of an iris scan, someone can cross a border without the need to present a document. This streamlines the process for everyone involved, which makes for happy travelers and border officers.

The world is ready to benefit from multimodal biometrics at the border. Tascent is the leader in providing the tools and solutions that make border crossings more efficient and secure. Border officers will be able to reap the benefits of better accuracy, protection against spoofing, watchlist matching, patrol flexibility, and accommodation of customer preferences. These benefits prove the value of multimodal biometrics in high-stakes environments.

Tascent will be instrumental in biometrics becoming the new normal and universal standard. By designing products with intuitive and seamless usability, Tascent makes adoption as natural as possible resulting in more people being familiar and comfortable with the technology. Given current trends, most immigration agencies will be using at least some multimodal systems at their borders within five years. As consumers become ever more accustomed to multimodal biometric scanning, it will be expected at their borders.

Tascent will continue working with immigration and border control agencies around the world to help them reap the benefits of multimodal biometrics. We can already see how pronounced the benefits are. Now it is up to the border control and biometrics industries to make the multimodal approach a workable, global standard.

About Tascent
Tascent combines independent biometric modalities to create a superior identification experience, leading the charge on seamless end-to-end multimodal biometric solutions.

Tascent develops and deploys biometric identity products and solutions that excel in challenging, real-world environments. Each year, tens of millions of people around the world rely on Tascent’s biometric technologies for secure, seamless travel and commerce. Founded in 2015, Tascent has a strong heritage in iris recognition and multimodal high-throughput and mobile biometrics. Tascent is based in Silicon Valley, CA and supports customers and partners globally with offices in Washington, DC, Dubai and Singapore.

Why InSight One is an ideal multimodal device for border control
The Tascent InSight One is a compact device that simultaneously combines facial recognition and iris scan biometrics. Fully automatic, InSight One captures high quality dual iris and face images in about two seconds at a standoff distance of 0.5 to 1.0 meters. The images meet or exceed ISO / ICAO standards for format and quality.

InSight One uses a human-centric approach to design and usability. This provides a more welcoming user experience during the identification process at a border. The design also delivers seamless enrollment and identification for a wide range of next generation applications in consumer travel border management, access control, financial services, and identity programs.

Tascent also offers solutions for varying environments by providing mounting options to enable tight integration of InSight One in desktop, e-Gate, and kiosk applications as well as custom color options to aesthetically match its surroundings.