SDW 2018 Interview: secunet on EES
22 June 2018 12:32 GMT

In this interview, Frank Steffens, Principal in the Homeland Security division of Germany’s secunet tells us about their approach to the biometric Entry/Exit System (EES) planned in Europe. The European Parliament has decided to introduce the common EES to register all nationals from non-EU countries – the corresponding regulation became effective on 29 December 2017.

Tell us a bit about your company and how it fits into the biometric and identity ecosystem?

secunet’s Homeland Security division’s history is secure electronic documents (eIDs) and trustworthy electronic identities. The company has been a pioneer in the standardisation of eIDs and biometrics and has lead several interoperability initiatives early on. Our experts have contributed to over 50 technical guidelines and ISO standards in the area of biometrics and eIDs. secunet has been significantly involved in the successful implementation of biometric key projects in Europe for almost 20 years – from biometric registration and verification in the context of official identity documents to mobile identity checks as well as border control and passenger flow optimisation.

What do you see as most important drivers and detractors for the identity industry over the coming years in Europe?

After the introduction of secure eID documents that contain a chip with biometrics more states are starting to actually use the added security and perform optical and electronic document checks at their border. Only recently the EU has adapted the Schengen Borders Code and made it mandatory to read and verify the ePassport chips. The next step will be the introduction of the EU Entry/Exit-System (EES) until 2020. All borders in Europe will become biometric. Nationals of non-EU countries – so called “Third Country Nationals”, or TCN for short - will have to register with four fingerprints and a facial image when entering Schengen countries through land, sea and air borders. The biometric data will be stored in the EES together with the identity data and other information taken from the travel document. Each data record resembles an electronic stamp (thus replacing the previous manual stamping procedure) and will be used to calculate the legitimate duration of stay within the Schengen area. The implementation of the EES is a tremendous challenge for all those  involved, such as border control authorities, airlines and airports. The industry must provide secure and future- proof solutions that serve all stakeholders.

What are some of the biggest challenges for your customers through the EES implementation? Enforcing the higher level of security is a big challenge for everyone: The new handling process for Third Country Nationals will become significantly more complicated and more time-consuming due to the (biometric) data collection at the stationary border control counters. This will inevitably lead to longer waiting times for all travellers. Due to the longer wait times, airports are likely to reach their capacity limits, especially as passenger numbers continue to rise. This would predispose passengers to being dissatisfied, which in turn increases the pressure on security organisations, airports and airlines. 

It is therefore essential to create an infrastructure that takes into account both the depth of control and the flow of passengers while facilitating the capturing of biometric data at the counter and achieving the technically much more complex connection of the airports – across several levels – to the central EES. Thanks to a border control strategy optimally adapted to the EES processes and applications – which also includes the stationary counters – the time required for the control process remains virtually unchanged, despite the capturing of biometric data and the extensive checking performed. This is ensured by automation and process optimisation at key points, for example self-service kiosk systems can speed up the time-consuming process of data collection and document checks. eGates (or ABC-gates) allow EU citizens and, under certain conditions, also TCN to perform the border crossing process themselves within a very short time. Also, at the counter, applications that have been developed specifically for border control can visualise the check results from various systems at a glance.

Can you tell us something unique about your firm that not many people know?

While the ID industry knows secunet as solution provider for eID and border control solutions based on biometrics and PKI, secunet as a whole is a leading IT and cyber security company. secunet offers for example consulting for cyber security and for the protection of critical infrastructures, IoT as well as a large portfolio of IT security products and solutions, for example highly secure crypto clients and network components under the brand name SINA.

secunet is proud of its reputation as a workplace. Our teams appreciate the flat hierarchies, short decision-making paths and an open door policy – an ideal climate for innovation. As cyber security is ever changing so are the tasks and skills of our teams. secunet offers excellent continuous education programs as well as opportunities for professional growth.

secunet presents EES-ready border control solutions at SDW in London. Visit them at booth E25!

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