20-year Anniversary Report: Cognitec

Cognitec: Two decades of innovation for safer, swifter, self-service border checks

On a cherished day in 2002, shortly after the business launch in Dresden, Germany, our founders find themselves signing the company’s first major contract in far-away Australia to help develop the SmartGate program, the very first eGate implementation in the world. The system at Sydney International Airport becomes a forerunner for worldwide adoption of self-service border control at airports and other checkpoints.

We extend our connection to Australia by joining the Biometrics Institute in March 2003 as the third European member, and lend our voice to the early conversations about feasible use cases for biometric technologies, their advantages and risks, and their impact on society.

The first eGate applications and their error rates also raise many questions about the feasibility and necessity of such systems. But most countries push forward with establishing biometric passports and automating border procedures. And statistics are easy to collect and present, showing very soon that the use of biometrics positively curbs identity fraud, outperforms ID validation by agents, and speeds up the immigration process.

In 2013, we respond to the growing demand for automated border control by introducing a new product—this time also providing the hardware for live facial image acquisition of the traveler. The device features new concepts for lighting, user guidance and camera control.

Following a contract award by the German Border Police to a German technology consortium, our device and verification software is integrated in eGates at all major German airports. Soon travelers embrace the speedy procedure that allows them to “cross the border” in 14 seconds or less, all on their own.

We continually optimize the device to boost usability for travelers while it captures best-quality images that guarantee high verification accuracy. Ongoing development work also enhances the performance of the proprietary sensor that distinguishes between human faces and artifacts like printed images and masks, thus preventing presentation attacks.

In the meantime, biometric algorithms gain in accuracy, and we participate in the “face recognition revolution” with regular releases of new matching engines. Every new version contributes to raising the reliability of now more than 400 eGates with our device in Europe and Asia. Billions of verifications later, the analysis of false rejections or faulty authentications in eGates with our technology shows extremely low error rates.

The innovative journey resumes in 2021, prompted by countries adding biometric entry/exit schemes to their immigration routines. Various tenders are now asking for equipment to quickly take biometric photos at the border. We react to very special installation requirements on German border control booths, and develop a slim, lightweight device that can hang on the glass front of booths in any design.

The German Federal Police awards the contract in July 2021. The project initially spans four years and includes the delivery of more than 1700 devices, followed by installation and maintenance at all international border checkpoints in Germany. Other countries are in the process of also choosing our device to fulfil entry/exit requirements. With slightly different immigration setups in each country, product development needs to stay flexible and retrofit the device to work well for every scenario.

And the journey continues. Our teams are already drawing new designs for a device that combines image capture, presentation attack detection and verification procedures. Managing Director Alfredo Herrera: “Our profound technical expertise, combined with the experience in working on government projects in the past 20 years, fuel continuous innovations for border control processes. We hope they contribute to ever safer and easier travels!”

Cognitec Systems                                                                                                       
Elke Oberg

Applications and use cases | Privacy and policy | Research and development | Technology innovation

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