Projects’ results are expected to contribute to some or all of the following outcomes:
- Updated, European-based, knowledge and development on robust biometrics technologies that could be used for recognition (identification and verification) of people crossing external EU borders, demonstrating a clear advancement beyond the current state-of-the-art;
- Maximisation of travellers’ experience and of security reassurances, minimising handling of personal data and maximising accuracy, reliability and throughput of the recognition process;
- Contribution to improving the operational response capacity of the EBCG at border crossing points and to capabilities that strengthen the Schengen area, by providing security at its external borders that also reassure on maintaining the free movement within its borders.
Biometrics are one of the most usable and most reliable ways to validate the identity of an individual. Biometrics that are traditionally used in the context of border controls include fingerprints and 2D facial images; other biometrics are also used for identity management outside the European Union, or at national level, such as iris; and further others are used in other applications in the private sector and in consumer market.
As for many other technologies, applications of biometrics to improve capabilities in civil security, such as in the border management or law enforcement sectors, may have higher requirements than applications in the consumer market. This applies to the requirements on reliability, usability, scalability, throughput and strict minimization of risks to personal data protection and fundamental rights (including the elimination or minimisation of any risk of bias or discrimination).
Research should assess and develop the fit-for-purpose border management of biometric identification modalities beyond fingerprints and facial images, and/or innovative modalities of acquisition of those and other biometrics. Proposed projects should particularly investigate biometrics modalities that currently do not offer satisfactory performance (in terms of accuracy, reliability, usability, minimisation of data protection risk and risk of bias etc.) but potentially offer significant advantages over existing solutions in the short or medium term for applications in a border checks context.
Any innovation in biometrics shall imply clear improvements on acquisition, processing and validation, compared to the state-of-the-art, “on-the-move” (i.e. while the travellers are moving and without cooperation from them), contactless and with stand-off biometric capturing from long-distances (ideally, but not mandatorily, more than 10 meters), and/or of when multiple travellers cross borders, on foot or inside the same vehicle. The solutions should also take into account the different nature and scenarios of BCP operations (e.g. open-air conditions, night, time, time constraints, space constraints, etc.).
The solutions should comply with the requirements of current and foreseen EU large-scale IT systems on borders and visa (e.g. the Entry/Exit System), as well as with interoperability frameworks between EU large-scale IT systems on borders, visas, asylum and migration, as well as on police and judicial cooperation.
The proposed solutions should comply with EU data protection law, and, amongst others, embed data protection by design and by default and ensure transparency vis-à-vis the concerned individuals and avoid abuses of their personal data. The solutions should also meet robust fundamental rights impact assessment frameworks. Developed solutions could indeed help reduce the amount of biometric data needed to achieve improved reliability of identification, including by acquiring and using less personal data compared to the state-of-the-art.
The project should also study the stability over time of collected biometrics, and if and how it would be possible to “re-use” collected biometrics in a secure and privacy-friendly manner, for the same purposes and according to allowed uses, collected biometrics, and avoid collecting the same biometrics multiple times.
The proposed solution(s) should address modular integration with health checks – such as in the case of pandemics – as well as checks on people’s temperature. At system-level, emphasis should be given to automated border check for the purpose of guiding travellers on-the-move while performing the seamless biometric acquisition. Systems should also be compatible with policies and measures typically introduced during pandemics (e.g. the use of facemasks and social distancing).
The proposed solutions should include automated decision support systems for the biometric recognition process suggesting to the end-users (border checks operators) which procedure, technology or database can be used without infringing rights of travellers.
The developed solutions need to comply with the Ethics Guidelines on Trustworthy AI (2019), the EU values and fundamental rights, including on data protection and avoid bias and discrimination.
EU border authorities in the consortia should plan to take up the results of the research, assuming the project delivers on its goals and is compatible with applicable legislation, using the financial support of the Border Management and Visa Instrument (BMVI).
Examples of technologies and approaches that can be explored by the research projects include (non-prescriptive and non-exhaustive): 3D facial images, contactless friction-ridge biometrics (i.e. fingerprint, palmprint and finger-knuckle-print), iris recognition from long distances, palm vein, periocular biometrics, novel algorithms embedding artificial intelligence as well as advanced hardware components like sensors, traveller tracking systems for high-quality on-the-move biometric acquisition, safe single wavelength or multispectral light sources (for the illumination of subjects) and document verification subsystems.
Research projects should consider, build on (if appropriate) and not duplicate previous research, including but not limited to research by other relevant recent EU Framework Programmes projects on security research, and projects funded under HORIZON-CL3-2021-BM-01-03: Improved border checks for travel facilitation across external borders and improved experiences for both passengers and border authorities’ staff and HORIZON-CL3-2022-BM-01-02: Enhanced security of, and combating the frauds on, identity management and identity and travel documents.
Proposals should delineate concrete, clear and convincing plans for further development to subsequent TRLs as well as uptake (industrialisation, commercialisation, acquisition and/or deployment in operational context of border checks) at national and EU level, should the research deliver on its goals.
Proposals submitted under this topic are expected to address the priorities of the European Border and Coast Guard and of its Agency (Frontex) and of the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA). This should start from the definition of requirements and the design phase of their work, including basing on the EBCG Capability Roadmap when available; and on the engagement with the Agencies during the implementation of the project. This perspective should be considered and planned when drafting proposals. Proposals should foresee that Frontex and of eu-LISA will observe projects’ pilots and demonstrations, with the aim of facilitating future uptake of innovations for the border and coast guard community.
The funded projects will likely have the opportunity of exploiting the core capabilities of the “Frontex Technology and Innovation Centre” (FIT, formerly BoMIC), Frontex’s future collaborative physical space for testing, demonstration, simulation and assessment of border-check prototype systems, processes and procedures with a focus on human-machine interaction and emulation of real operational environments.