Robust border control is essential, but long security queues awaiting weary travellers are not. Professor James Ferryman is using a smartphone app and innovative biometric technology at border crossings to transform the future of travel, keeping people moving while ensuring accurate identity verification and border security.

Public opinion on border control performance is deteriorating. With a near doubling of air travellers expected by 2030 and the inability to increase space at border crossing points, speeding up passport controls is a priority. Current systems increasingly favour automated biometric verification over traditional checks, for more rapid and accurate performance. But there are still improvements to be made in speed, cost and availability.

Using a traveller’s own smartphone as a paperless travel document, Professor Ferryman has developed ‘biometric corridor’ prototypes; at air and sea ports the traveller walks through without stopping as necessary checks are made, while at land borders if people are travelling by car, the system performs identification as the passengers remain in their vehicle. The so-called PROTECT app has been sensitively developed to ensure the travelling public maintain control of their own personal data.

Professor Ferryman’s work has directly informed policymakers in Brussels as they make the legislative changes needed to install the ‘corridors’ at borders throughout the EU. The PROTECT system will shortly be trialled at a land border in Poland and at London’s St Pancras Eurostar station. Working closely with developers, end users and legislators, Professor Ferryman’s work should, in future, help accelerate our path through borders across the world.

*PROTECT: Pervasive and UseR Focused BiomeTrics BordEr ProjeCT

Funders: European Commission (Secure societies)

Partners: Veridos GmbH, UK Home Office, Intrepid Minds, University of Namur

“Judges’ comment: “Professor Ferryman’s research is clearly starting to have impact – targeting hard-to-engage audiences and driving innovation that will make identifications at border crossings more efficient.”

Shortlisted for the University Research Engagement and Impact Awards 2019

First published: June 2019