Vision-Box, a world leader in biometrics seamless travel, automated border control and digital identity solutions has announced the launch of a Frontex awarded trial to implement an innovative pilot project at two land borders in Bulgaria, in the context of the EU Entry/Exit System (EES). The EES is a landmark framework set to replace traditional border controls of Third-Country Nationals with interoperable digital data processing and automated biometric data collection in 2022. The Frontex pilot (frontex.europa.eu), which went live in June 2021 in Bulgaria in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and the Border Police will be for coaches, cars and pedestrians at entry of Kapitan Andreevo BCP from Turkey for phase 1, and exit at Kalotina BCP to Serbia for phase 2.
The implementation of the EES will influence the flow of travellers and the technology deployed at the border to collect the required data, in order to cope with the variety of sites and related complexities. This effect will possibly be more important at the EU land border crossings, which are more constrained environments as compared with airports and ports, as many travellers arrive in their vehicles. Therefore, the introduction of EES will have a significant impact on travellers’ flow at those border crossing points (BCP).
The purpose of the pilot project is to deliver a Self-Service Enrolment System to enable travellers to perform a self-service collection of travel document data, biometric data and other information (e.g., questionnaire on entry conditions). It also executes real-time intensive queries into the Bulgarian national border control systems, in combination with an EU EES backend simulator. After the Enrolment, travellers are invited to go to an open corridor and be identified On-the-Move to directly cross the Border, or to be redirected to the manual control booth to be verified by a border guard with last generation Coppernic handheld technology. The secured linkage and encrypted communications with the national and EU border control systems, performing border checks on all travellers and EES registration/verification on third country nationals, is jointly performed by Vision-Box and the respective border agencies.
The EES Frontex pilot applies to short stay visa and visa-exempt third country nationals as well as EU citizens entering or leaving the European Union.
The pilot ecosystem (enrolment kiosks, biometric corridor, handheld tablets) is powered by Vision-Box’s award-winning Orchestra™ Identity & Border Management Platform. Orchestra™ removes the time-consuming task of manual data collection and verification, meaning that travellers do not need to physically interact with touchpoints or manually exchange travel documents and biometrics at counters. The whole process leverages identity and biometrics’ tokenization to digitize the operation in a touchless manner. This also reduces long queuing at checkpoints and curtails crowding at clearance hotspots, allowing travellers to navigate the border a lot quicker and safely with biometric recognition technology. Facial recognition biometrics offers the highest level of convenience for traveller identity proofing, in compliance with the EU regulations, combined with touchless fingerprint sensors for combined verification against the EU EES biometric backend systems. The solution drives significant improvements over traditional manual and touch-based identification procedures in terms of hygiene, accuracy, and privacy protections.
The powerful Orchestra™ Service Platform is compliant with EU GDPR regulations through its unique Privacy-by-Design certification. It operates under user-centric business rules and is the kernel of the advanced management of Identity proofing and Flow Monitoring of traveller processes at the border. The platform’s powerful capability allows it to process the full extent of national border passenger volume, thanks to its future-proof scalable design and resilient architecture.
For this pilot delivery, Vision-Box has hired the services of PwC Luxembourg, in order to help sustain the definition of the use cases, their testing, and overall pilot reporting. In addition, Bulgarian system integrator Global Sat, is supporting Vision-Box in the deployment of the solution on the ground and its maintenance during the overall 6 months’ operation of the two pilot phases at the two different land borders.
Speaking about the pilot project, Jeff Lennon, Vice President Strategic Sales & Global Partnerships at Vision-Box, said: “We are thrilled to run this Frontex pilot for exploring the future of EES in Bulgaria and Europe, in partnership with the Ministry of Interior and the Border Police as long-time customers, PwC and Global Sat. This innovative undertaking will allow all of us to stress-test ground-breaking technology in a very challenging environment, yet at a small scale. It will also help us establish the foundations for expanding the technology at national level for any type of land border environment, minimizing the footprint of the solution at stake while maximizing the process efficiency for the border guards and the travellers. This is also a great opportunity for understanding the flow of border-crossings at two of the largest EU land border sites, to effectively expand our solutions in the EU context for Smart Borders as we are already doing in Finland since 2019 among other EES projects with additional member states.”
Serge Hanssens, Partner at PwC for Smart Borders said: “Frontex and Bulgarian’s authorities collaborate in testing the European Entry Exit System (EES) at two critical land border control points in Europe. This is a unique opportunity and milestone to try out these new processes in real conditions. PwC Luxembourg is so pleased to be part of the adventure supporting Frontex and Bulgarian’s authorities to make the EES deployment a success; securing the entry and exit to the European Schengen Area of all third country nationals.”
Tsvetan Mutafchiev, Executive Director at Global Sat said: “We at Global Sat are excited to be part of this very innovative PoC project. EU land border crossings create a number of new challenges for automated border control due to the specifics introduced by different types of vehicles used by passengers. We do believe that the pilot project will successfully prove the concept of the Vision Box‘s platform and will also provide valuable feedback from Bulgarian border police officers. The implementation of self-service enrolment systems, when applied in full scale at the EU’s external borders, will facilitate efforts against illegal migration and will contribute to the security of European countries with a full commitment to personal data protection. The Global Sat team is proud to be at the forefront of this endeavour. With our experience as a system integrator, we will continue to contribute to its success.”
With the industry expected to resume travel as restrictions begin to ease, Vision-Box’s technology is proving crucial in guaranteeing a safe and efficient travel processes. Over the past months, Vision-Box has also inaugurated Automated Border Control eGates at Malta International Airport in collaboration with the Malta Police Force, implemented an integrated Biometric experience for Emirates Airline at Terminal 3 of Dubai International Airport, and secured a regional strategic partnership with AirAsia Group, to implement industry leading, identity management technology across its network of 152 airports.