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PARAFE: a new generation of smart gates for the ADP Group

Duty free shops in Roissy
Aim: streamline passenger traffic by reducing border crossing times

The automated PARAFE system (Automated Fast Track Crossing at External Borders), introduced in 2009 at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, has been modernized in 2017 and 2018. 

Paris Aéroport has chosen Gemalto to equip, deploy and maintain the new generation automated control smart gates.

Based on face recognition technology, this solution aims to increase the flow of passengers while improving perceived quality. The new automated control egates are being implemented across Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly.

Passengers can cross through the new gates faster, simply with the aid of their passports and faces, saving appreciable time both on departure and arrival.

Let's be precise: 

  • The new facial recognition process takes 10 to 15 seconds when the fingerprint-based one took 30 to 45 seconds.
  • The new system can be used by over 40% of travelers as against 3 to 4% in the case of fingerprint recognition.

Why this development? What are the real challenges?

​Paris airports taking good care of their arrivals 

As everyone knows, before embarking at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, it's an absolute must to buy a miniature Eiffel tower, something from Lacoste on sale, perhaps the latest Swatch, and certainly treat yourself to a special bottle or two of duty-free wines and spirits... 

The ADP Group has always focused its "duty-free" strategy on the boarding halls. They are luxurious and well-stocked, they stimulate both travelers' curiosity and their credit cards, once they have finally made it through all the necessary searches and controls.

All the passenger studies converge on one point: the stress curve is very high on arriving in the terminal, and then plunges once the formalities are over. In other words, the average basket will be directly proportional to the time left available before boarding.

This, of course, is a fact well-known to airport managers who derive over 50% of their revenue from "non-aeronautical" business:

  • hotels,
  • parking,
  • business centers,  

and especially from the retail zones, always a favorite last-minute stop-off. 

At Charles de Gaulle and Orly, the two Parisian largest airports, a great deal of attention is paid to the well-being of the traveler on departure. It is as though reputation demands that fine wines, perfumes, scarves, and fashion items be part of the travel experience.​

Automated border control Roissy, May 14, 2017 

For arriving passengers, however, unlike at many other major airports where arrival halls play the duty-free card too, the welcome in Paris can be off-putting.

With queue-times upwards of 30 minutes should your arrival coincide with an A380 from one of the Gulf States, you are sure to be without a shop in sight to help pass the time! In fact, immigration controls have become the main source of dissatisfaction among passengers disembarking at Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly at the top of the rankings​​

And yet the ADP Group flies high in the rankings of the busiest airports with over 72 million passengers at Paris-Charles de Gaulle and 33 million at Paris-Orly in 2018, second only to London-Heathrow on the European podium, well ahead of Amsterdam-Schiphol. 

And all this combined with sustained annual growth thanks to the dynamism of low-cost airlines. 

Besides, transit passengers account for 22% of traffic through Paris - a statistic not to be overlooked! 

Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, terminal 2 Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, terminal 2 

Clearly, Paris airports need to devote plenty of TLC (Tender Loving Care) to travelers whose only experience of France is through its terminals and who may choose another mode of transit next time if they feel they are not being looked after as they want to be. 

But that's just part of the story…​.

2017: modernization of the PARAFE system, a visionary choice 

Because the ADP Group is very sensitive to airport popularity rankings, which will determine choices made by connecting passengers, it has opted to go down the route of automation.

Following a very competitive tender, in which the leaders in the field went head to head, Gemalto - a champion of digital security and of ID document security in particular - was selected together with two members of the Bolloré Group: IER and its subsidiary Automatic Systems, a world leader in the field of automated secure entrance control.

The initiative will give a new lease of life to the smart gate PARAFE system (Automated Fast Track Crossing at External Borders), which was beginning to lose impetus after almost a decade in service. 

Starting in the first half of 2017, 87 "smart gates" will be deployed between Paris-CDG and Orly. French travelers will have the privilege of testing the process for an initial one-month period. If the results are conclusive, it will be offered to all EU nationals, also issued with biometric passports, as required by regulations.

These biometric border control gates will operate both on departure and arrival. As is already the case today, the eGate will only open if the passenger's fingers match the fingerprints stored in the passport's chip​.

Automated Border Control

New automatic passport control gates in Roissy in September 2017 

A scalable border control system

Automated Border Control (ABC) belongs to a family of innovative services offered by Gemalto. These services open the way to multimodal biometric authentication, including facial recognition, robust document verification and easy integration with immigration systems. This solution meets rigorous security standards and provides outstanding operational efficiency for border police.

Facial recognition at work

Just like London and major German airports, the ADP Group is adopting facial recognition. The Group estimates that almost 45% of travelers are eligible for this new system. All ePassport portraits have to comply with the recommendations defined by the ISO/IEC 19794-5 standard which serves as a reference for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) 9303 standard.

The French border police validated the process in 2018. It is the passenger's face that triggers the opening of the eGate and no longer the matching of the biometric fingerprint as under the old smart gate PARAFE system. 

No more hesitating over ring finger or middle finger! Just smile and the gate opens, providing, of course, you are in possession of your passport because the authentication works by comparing your actual facial biometrics with the photo stored in the microcontroller on your biometric passport.

The proposed system is at once "fast, user-friendly and highly secure", enthuses one project manager. 

As random controls are increasingly being applied, the air and border police will still be able to monitor passengers in real-time, block the opening of gates and carry out additional checks in the event of an identified risk, etc.

Biometric border control gates: generation II

Biometric border control gates: generation II

Biometric gates by Gemalto and its trusted partners are set to replace Paris airports' "PARAFE" smart gates, now beginning to show their age and also insufficient in number.

The legacy gates were insufficiently intuitive – which finger, which hand? - and are hampered by lengthy response times which ended up discouraging hurried users, who confessed to preferring the border control officers.

But there's more.

PARAFE was also strictly reserved for French passport holders, and not EU citizens, unlike the facilities at other major airports.

Now for the good news.

Gemalto's self-service automatic border crossing solution has a three-fold objective:

  • increased security,
  • convenience for travelers
  • control of costs.

It covers a family of equipment such as cameras, biometric detectors, e-gates and software designed for airports and police authorities with a constant concern for robustness and ease of operation.

Any traveler with the electronic passport can thus avoid tedious queue-time and cross borders in seconds using one of the most efficient technologies on the market. Thanks to a multi-camera wall, the gate begins processing biometrics as soon as the passenger steps in. 

Mirrors instinctively attract the eyes of the passenger and the compilation of images allows fast authentication by a process of comparison with the biometrics on the passport's chip.

Sounds good?

The result is no possibility of error, no discomfort and no waste of time. Once through the checkpoint, the traveler is free to relax and take advantage of the available facilities and retail areas before boarding. 

All-out war on counterfeit passports

When they enter their smart gate, travelers place their passport on a sophisticated document reader which, within seconds, verifies its validity.

Any anomaly is immediately identified. 

The comparison with the data stored in the microcontroller is 100% conclusive and any fraud is immediately brought to light. The biometric authentication algorithms - for fingers or face - are particularly robust and powerful.

Once the passport has been validated, the system connects to databases to identify anyone who may be wanted or constitute a threat. 

The biometric gate detects:

  • any attempted forced intrusion,
  • any attempt at passenger substitution,
  • attempted passenger piggyback or tailgating.

The glass walls of the gate allow for remote monitoring and facilitate assistance as and when required. Hardware is particularly robust to withstand the intensive usage in airports, meeting the needs of hurried travelers​.

Maintenance reduced to the minimum

Maintenance requirements are limited to the minimum, given the robustness of the process. 

The IER and Automatic Systems equipment is today in service in busy public transport environments such as railway stations, subways and airport terminals. It offers best-in-class performance in terms of MCBF (Machine Cycles Before Failure). 

Similarly, the biometric recognition cameras are without moving parts which dramatically increases the Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) rate of the overall solution.

Maximum flexibility

This solution from Gemalto is remarkably flexible, so much so that new PARAFE gates could be put into service in just a few hours, to cater for sudden increases in traveler flows, for instance in the event of exceptional events attracting very large numbers of visitors.

The mode of operation is modular so as to be able to modify the control procedures to better target fraud attempts, to manage pre-registered travelers or else to change the type of biometrics. 

Naturally, the system supports connection to databases to cater to police requirements and pre-empt threats.

Solutions for airlines and airports

In March 2017, Gemalto announced that it was deploying an innovative 'Fly to Gate' solution together with IER, the airport self-service solutions specialist, to seamlessly accompany passengers from their homes to the boarding gate for their flight.

​'Fly to Gate' opens the way to multimodal biometric authentication, including facial recognition, robust document verification and easy integration with immigration systems. 

This solution furthermore meets rigorous security standards and delivers outstanding operational efficiency for airports and airlines alike.

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