in line at the airport (Tooykrub /

DHS seeks tech for a better border-crossing experience

The Department of Homeland Security is looking for innovative solutions to speed movement of people across the U.S. borders.

In a series of Other Transaction Solicitations, DHS' Science & Technology directorate describes solutions that will help Customs and Border Protection address the growing number of international travelers to the U.S. while ensuring the highest level of security in hundreds of different-sized airports.

Specifically, DHS is looking for technology to count and measure the number of air travelers at different stages of the entry process, to guide them to the correct line at airport inspection areas and to deploy facial recognition technology at land border crossings without creating traffic delays. 

Currently CBP does not have a way to precisely determine the number of passengers in specific lines and the wait times for each step of the international arrivals process in the air environment. It wants a solution that will give it information on each line -- from deplaning through baggage collection and ground transportation queues -- across a variety of inspection stations and in both large and small airports.

Without this information CBP is unable to give international arrivals accurate estimated wait times, route them to the shortest available queue or determine how quickly people are passing through security checkpoints.

Although commercial counting and measuring capabilities currently exist, DHS said this solicitation is looking for less-expensive counting and measuring solutions that can calculate queue time, transaction time, dwell time and wait times for all types of lines at the airport.

DHS is interested in evaluating all passive monitoring technologies, including wireless communication signals, facial matching, video analytics and infrared/thermal.  Any technology proposed must integrate securely with multiple airlines and airports as well as with CBP systems.

One consequence of the inability to accurate assess the number of travelers passing through airport checkpoints is that it is difficult for CBP to guide people to the appropriate line. Language difficulties and different lanes for specific citizenship statuses and methods of processing, such as Global Entry, make it difficult for passengers arriving after a long international flight into a crowded area to find the right queue.

To help alleviate the crowds and confusion, CBP is interested in wayfinding technology that gives travelers real-time, tailored information on how to efficiently navigate the inspection process based on the their admissibility status.

The solicitation for wayfinding technology is looking for platform technologies that can be integrated with existing airport systems, including the counting and measuring system proposed above, and meet DHS security and privacy requirements.

Any solution should include a display system that is accessible within the airport (and virtually from other locations such as CBP headquarters) and that presents visual indicators of zone/lanes and the path travelers should follow according to lane assignment they received through a mobile app. Two scenarios are envisioned. In one, passengers voluntarily opt-in to providing biographic data that can be compared to CBP databases and receive a customized lane-assignment based on their traveler’s status. The second scenario would address passengers who do not opt-in, so the system displays all available lane options and relevant information such as locations or wait times. 

For land border crossings, DHS wants to use facial recognition technology to validate the identities of travelers entering and exiting the country without requiring occupants to leave their moving vehicle. 

The system must be able to capture facial-recognition-quality photographs accounting for changes in lighting, windshield tint, vehicle speed and crossing infrastructure as well as for occupants wearing sun glasses, hats, or looking away. It must also be able to package and transmit the captured information to compare it against DHS databases to validate occupants’ identities and document entry/exit.

All three solicitations are open until Oct. 18, 2018. Applications will be accepted on a continuous, rolling basis and funding will be awarded in four phases from proof of concept through pilot deployment.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.


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