IDEMIA and Sopra Steria chosen by eu-LISA to build shared Biometric Matching System for Schengen Area border protection

An interview with Emmanuel Wang, VP Border and Passenger Flow Facilitation, IDEMIA. By Ross Falconer

The new European Entry-Exit System is the cornerstone of the protection of Europe’s borders and will meet the identification needs of Schengen Member States when implemented by 2022.

Emmanuel Wang, VP Border and Passenger Flow Facilitation, IDEMIA: “IDEMIA has a comprehensive understanding of the current European systems and will bring best-in-class biometric technology to contribute to one of the most challenging large-scale biometric databases in the world in terms of accuracy and response time.”

“It aims at fighting against irregular immigration and trans-border crime,” begins Emmanuel Wang, VP Border and Passenger Flow Facilitation, IDEMIA. “The new system notably includes the biometric verification and identification of third-country nationals, based on facial image and four fingerprints, at all kinds of border crossing points – air, land and sea – through a shared Biometric Matching System (sBMS).”

The sBMS is a central system hosted by the European agency, eu-LISA, and IDEMIA was recently chosen to implement it with its partner Sopra Steria. The sBMS will be one of the largest biometric systems in the world, integrating a database of over 400 million third-country nationals with their fingerprints and facial images.

“As a contributor to the Smart Borders Initiative from the first discussions with the European Commission, we are very excited to shape the outcome of this major project,” says Wang. “IDEMIA has a comprehensive understanding of the current European systems and will bring best-in-class biometric technology to contribute to one of the most challenging large-scale biometric databases in the world in terms of accuracy and response time.”

The new sBMS will be used for the future Entry-Exit System and by all the systems already in use in the European Union: the Schengen Information System (SIS), the Visa Information System (VIS), Eurodac for asylum seekers, and the future ECRIS-TCN for criminals.

“The first time a third-country national will come into Europe, they will be registered and searched in the shared BMS,” Wang explains. “The authorities will then be able to check whether they are the person they claim to be through biometric verification, and make sure they do not overstay.”

A set of alphanumeric data, as well as biometric data, will be collected, checked and stored for three years. The biometric data remains in Europe.

Entry-Exit System to enter operation in 2022

IDEMIA and Sopra Steria enjoy a long-term, historic relationship and partnership with major European Institutions, including the European Commission and eu-LISA. “Together, we have served the Agency on numerous successful, high profile programmes requiring excellence in biometric technology and IT security systems, including VIS, SIS and Eurodac for more than 15 years,” Wang comments.

Both IDEMIA and Sopra Steria have experience of working with the national and local administrations of EU Member States and private sector partners to manage the flow of people across air, land and sea borders. “Additionally, IDEMIA’s biometric technology is recognised as best-in-class and we have been improving and preparing it for this very project for years,” says Wang.

IDEMIA is present in Strasbourg since the foundation of eu-LISA with a local team that is now being upsized for the purpose of the Entry-Exit System and the shared BMS. The entry into operation of the Entry-Exit System is planned in February 2022.

The Entry-Exit System will mean a more complex process for third-country nationals entering the Schengen Area, and Member States will need to properly manage passenger flow at the different border crossing points. “As saving time at borders is key, we can provide airports and border authorities accompaniment to adapt their travel infrastructure with gates for fast processing, specific lanes, and above all self-service multi-biometric kiosks compliant with the EU Entry-Exit System’s regulations,” Wang adds. “Europe will manage one of the largest biometric systems in the world. More than ever before, technology can make the world a safer place. At IDEMIA, we are definitely proud to be part of it.”

IDEMIA is an active member of the ACI EUROPE Facilitation & Customer Services Committee.

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