The number of legitimate crossings of EU frontier borders by both non-EU and EU citizens, especially frequent travellers, is rapidly increasing. In February 2013 the European Commission proposed the Smart Borders Package aimed to improve the management of external borders of Schengen member states including facilitation of border crossings by pre-vetted frequent third party country national (TCN) travellers. The first examination of the Smart Borders Package (February 2014) estimated that by 2025 there will be 302 million border crossings and 76 million TCN travellers, an increase in the number of travellers by 55% from 2014.

Automated Border Control (ABC), specifically ABC gates at airports, has enabled biometric verification to be performed using passports more rapidly and accurately than traditional manual checks.  However, the application of current day ABC gates for the identification task do not meet expectations both with respect to performance (speed, accuracy), cost and even availability. Commercial systems are generally limited to use of a single ICAO mandated biometric modality (either face or fingerprint), which in turn decreases accuracy, still involve a significant transaction time and lack advanced means of detecting spoofing attempts. An unexpected side effect of greater automation is that queues for automated border control can sometimes exceed the length of queues for the manual controls. This is because the transaction times for ABC are still unacceptably long.

Advances in biometric technology promise improved security solutions for borders while simultaneously improving the traveller’s experience through expedited crossing of the border. The  PROTECT project deals with the problem of queuing but also that of proactively detecting spoofing attempts through advanced application of multimodal biometrics and counter spoofing. Specifically, the PROTECT system will investigate and propose new less obtrusive approaches to biometric data capture and verification, particularly the use of emerging and contactless biometrics. In particular, an extension to existing ABC gates will be considered whereby the identification process takes place in a biometric corridor that can be passed by the traveller without stopping. Such an approach will optimise security and integrity of facilitation of travellers, as well as enhancing the experience for citizens including for non-EU and frequent travellers.

A critical issue with biometrics arises with the collection of biometric data, which could be construed as being in conflict with fundamental human rights such as the right of liberty and the right to privacy and data protection. Thus, user requirements on a biometric-based person identification system do not only stem from the operators of the border, but also from the people being identified. This matter requires very careful considerations to find the balance between the need of security and the privacy interests of the European population. PROTECT will seek ways to put the citizen or legal resident back in a position whereby they have visibility of their personal data and its meaning.

In summary, PROTECT aims to research and prototype additional biometric modalities and methods of their application for the benefit of European border control and the industry that supports it, whilst conisdering the impact upon legislation, citizens' and residents' rights and freedom to travel and the welcome the EU offers to third country nationals.