PROFILE: Enhancing Customs Risk Management

6 June 2019
By Dr. Toni Männistö and Dr. Juha Hintsa, Cross-border Research Association

PROFILE, a project funded under the European Union’s (EU) Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, aims to develop and test modern data analytics tools with a view to improving Customs risk management techniques.

Ultimately, the project will facilitate and accelerate the uptake by Customs administrations of state-of-the-art data analytics, including the incorporation of new and open data sources, thereby greatly enhancing risk profiling.

Towards better risk assessment

Solutions being developed as part of the project build on machine learning, graph-based analytics, and natural language processing technologies, which will enable Customs administrations to collect and organize unstructured data, mine large datasets, make better use of control feedback and inspection outcomes, and visualize complex data sets.

The project seeks to connect Customs risk management systems that contain data usually collected by Customs to data owned by industry’s “big data” providers, as well as to data available online such as product values accessible on e-commerce sites. Access to a wider range of data and customized state-of-the-art data analytics will provide Customs administrations with a better view on the risk posed by cross-border cargo flows.

The idea is also to enable systematic Customs-to-Customs sharing of Entry Summary Declarations as well as risk-relevant information, such as threat priorities, high-risk indicators and control results, through the “PROFILE risk data-sharing architecture.”

Project consortium

The project brings together 14 partners from eight countries across Europe: five Customs administrations, leading technology providers, and universities as well as research institutes. The project is coordinated by the Cross-border Research Association (CBRA), a Swiss institute focusing on supply chain security and trade facilitation research and education, and a longtime partner of the WCO.

Project activities

The technical value and economic viability of solutions developed under the project are tested in real-world conditions, in what is called “living labs,” in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Three living labs are under the direct management of PROFILE Customs partners:

  • In the Dutch living lab, a solution has been designed to collect product price information from peer-to-peer online marketplaces and web stores, and compare average prices to the product values declared during an importation of e-commerce shipments.
  • In the Belgian living lab, a tool has been developed to establish risk indicators for profiling economic operators and improving current targeting models, which is largely facilitated by access to wider and better data sources as well as the use of machine learning techniques.
  • The Sweden-Norway living lab seeks to upgrade Customs import/export risk assessment at the Swedish-Norwegian border. This includes studying opportunities for, and barriers to, exchanging import and export declaration data as well as risk-relevant information between an EU and a non-EU country.

The fourth living lab, led by the EU’s Joint Research Centre, is exploring ways in which risk-relevant data can be shared between EU Customs administrations in an agile manner. The focus is not to replace the current mechanisms of collaboration on risk analysis, but to complement them with a platform that can be used to quickly cover new needs for data sharing among any ad-hoc group of countries. Currently, a blueprint for a risk data-sharing architecture is under construction.

Each living lab follows agreed methodologies and guidelines, including guidelines related to data governance. This modus operandi will facilitate the later deployment of PROFILE solutions among the EU’s Customs administrations and beyond.

More information

PROFILE in brief

Full name: Innovative Data Analytics, Data Sources, and Architecture for European Customs Risk Management

Start date: 1 August 2018

Project duration: 36 months

EU financial contribution: 5 million euro


Project partners:

Belgian Customs and Excise Administration

Dutch Customs Administration

Estonian Customs Administration

Norwegian Customs Administration

Swedish Customs Administration

Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO)

Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI)

Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI)

Delft University of Technology, Netherlands (TUD)

INLECOM Systems Ltd, United Kingdom

IBM Ireland Ltd, Ireland

University of Lausanne, Switzerland

EU Joint Research Centre (JRC)

Cross-border Research Association, Switzerland (CBRA)


Management team members:

Dr Juha Hintsa, CBRA (PROFILE Coordinator)

Dr Wout Hofman, TNO (PROFILE Technical Manager)

Prof. Yao-hua Tan, TUD (PROFILE Scientific Manager)

Mr Jonathan Migeotte, Belgian Customs and Excise Administration

Mr Marcel Molenhuis, Dutch Customs Administration

Mr Anders Alpsten, Swedish Customs Administration

Dr Aris Tsois, JRC