This summer my colleague Mario Kaufmann from the Fraunhofer Institute will present a paper [1] based on our FastPass work at the Interfaces and Human Computer Interaction (IHCI) 2014 conference in Lisbon.

One task of the FastPass project is to study actual automated border control (ABC) systems and investigate how their usability and take-up can be improved. Although e-gates have been in use for years, they are still underutilized by travellers. The paper presents a usability analysis of ABC e-gates at two large North-European international airports and compares their ease of use.

Our observations show that the man-machine interface of e-gates is still under development. One important lesson to learn is that continued usability testing with real users after implementation is very important and will further enhance the system. The strong emphasis at one of the airports on usability and its ongoing testing means that the system is continuously being improved. As a respondent (from border management) remarked: “What we could not test of course was the passenger behaviour. You only notice it when you’re operating the gates. Things come up that we have not thought of, or that we see ‘that could be better’”.

A large proportion of (potential) e-gate users are infrequent travellers, therefore major component differences make it difficult for users to know how to interact with unfamiliar and dissimilar e-gates. Standardisation will be key to improve the usability for travellers and will raise user confidence. Positive experiences of users are vital as they lead to repeated use, and can have a favourable impact on the uptake of the technology by current non-users through word-of-mouth endorsement.

[1] Oostveen, A., M. Kaufmann, E. Krempel and G. Grasemann (2014) Automated Border Control: A Comparative Usability Study at Two European Airports. Interfaces and Human Computer Interaction (IHCI) 2014 Conference 15 – 17 July, Lisbon, Portugal.