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El pasaporte, por favor!

Vision used in passport verification system

By Alejandro Gomez de Cuenca, General Manager, Avalon Biometrics

Avalon Biometrics was founded in late 2001 as a private company in the UK, and opened as a separate Spanish company in 2004, setting up a new development center and commercial office. We implement projects as a system integrator using our own components combined with solutions from leading providers like Matrox Imaging. We are currently implementing the new Spanish Border Control System as a subcontractor for our Spanish partner, Telvent.

Our vision is to become a well-respected and highly-regarded management consultancy, systems provider and integrator in the security arena of the world's public sector. Our mission is to provide end-to-end consulting and solutions for a number of security issues for the public sector:

  • Consulting with government agencies and prime contractors in the design, evaluation, commissioning, and implementation of identification document systems and their operation in a secure and controlled process.
  • National identification solutions/projects, for example, ID-Cards, driver licenses, social security cards, voter cards, etc., using diverse secure technologies integrated by a document registry or a national population registry.
  • The entire range of document registries such as passport registry, ID card registry, civil registry, national population registry.
  • Secure Border Management Systems including features like facial recognition, automated gates, fingerprint verification, entry/exit form recognition and last but not least, the automated verification of machine readable travel documents and their security features.
  • Internet-based Enrollment Systems that serve as front ends to registries using web services and application servers to form an integral solution for data capture and storage in a registry.
  • End user AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identication System) solutions, based on the core technology of the customer's choice. We work with various vendors of core AFIS technology to create customer-specific solutions of a Civil AFIS.

Holding up the Border

We use the Matrox Imaging Library in our SBMS (Secure Border Management System). It is a system to be used by immigration authorities to control the entry and exit to and from a country. Our Secure Border Management System integrates the latest advances in security technology, and provides immigration authorities with an efficient tool to fend off threats. SBMS supports the new e-passports and e-visas in addition to the automated verification of printed security features inherent in all travel documents, whether they are machine readable or hand written. A variety of innovative features like ICR (Intelligent Character Recognition) of Entry/Exit Cards, and biometric analysis such as face recognition (including a most wanted list) and fingerprint comparison make this system unique.

Data Capture and Document Verification

Two of the most important components of SBMS are Automatic Document Identification (ADI) and Document Verification. ADI is the first step in the validation process because we have to know exactly the type of document that is presented for verification. To maintain efficiency and speed during passenger processing, this process must be automatic, so we have over 500 templates of various documents to which the captured documents are compared. We use MIL to extract much of the document's information for this process.

Many document types feature a Machine Readable Zone (MRZ). SBMS automatically reads the information from the MRZ, and captures images of the document itself and its textual information under different light sources such as UV, Infrared, Retro reflective laminates, and normal light. The data contained in passports that are not machine readable can be manually entered by smart fields that feature default values, preset values and drop-down boxes. For the e-passports and e-visas, SBMS performs automated data capture from the electronic document's RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip in a single step. All data captured from any type of document is checked against the control list.

The document verification module provides comprehensive and fully automated validation of travel documents. Document verification determines the authenticity and integrity of the travel document, checking that it has not been tampered with. The security features are checked against the templates stored in the database. As with ADI, all verification is performed automatically by analyzing images and comparing security patterns and features under various light sources. Furthermore, all information related to the MRZ and information in the Visual Inspection Zone are read and compared using a state of the art OCR engine.

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Why go with Matrox?

We chose Matrox Imaging primarily as the result of our investigation of the image processing packages available on the market. We performed several benchmark tests between the top three candidates, and we obtained the best results with Matrox. The wide range of functionality offered in the MIL package eliminated any need to work with more than one provider - a factor that positively affects the development period and the final cost of the solution.

All our document processing is performed automatically, and using MIL we were able to extract a large amount of statistical information from the document images in various light sources. Using our own matching system in conjunction with MIL we increased the accuracy for automatic document identification to more than 99% and document verification to 97%. All this implies that when a document is scanned using a document reader, the system knows exactly which type of document it is in less than a second (and remember there are more than 500 templates), as well as the version, the country of issue, the document type, to list a few examples. This action is one of the most critical in the system; without accurate document identification the system would be totally unusable, as we would be comparing documents against the wrong templates.

Combining our own matching algorithms with MIL functionality like Geometric Model Finder, and pixel analysis, we dramatically increased the accuracy of the system's ability to detect almost all possible alterations and fake documents.

Another important factor evaluated in favor of Matrox Imaging was the company itself; a serious and big corporation ensuring new releases and efficient support needed during the development phase. Indeed, that support and help from both Matrox and the local representative (Unitronics) guaranteed a fluid communication channel and support at all times.

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