Translation Device for customs

Videoprototype, WS1213

Our Translation Device for customs is an interactive surface, built to help customs officials communicating with passengers. It consists of two touchscreens and a PC with a database of often used sentences in several languages. After specifying the language of the passenger the official can select questions which appear on the passenger’s screen.

During our research phase at the customs department at Munich airport we heard that difficulties to communicate with people who don’t speak German or English are the most common problem the employees have to deal with on a day to day basis. At the moment they either ask colleagues who happen to know other languages for help or use self-made cards containing the most important phrases.

The system provides predefined questions for the official to ask, which are automatically translated to the passenger’s language. Furthermore it provides possibilities for the passenger to answer them, allowing a dialog between them for the usual checks they do. The official sees the answers and navigates through the questions offered or can type in his own.

The device aims to decrease the time and effort needed for checks, both on the passenger’s as well as on the official’s side. Another possible positive effect is minimizing the passenger’s fear of the customs check and its officials. Lastly, usage of this system may lead to an improved image of the customs within the travelers.


Since the system runs on a normal PC, there are near endless possibilities for expanding it. Our favourite idea was a barcode and RFID-Scanner, the former to quickly scan the name and price of an object, allowing quick price checks, the latter to authenticate to the system and scan biometric passports easing the language selection.

Communication System for Customs Examinations

Concept, WS1213

After reviewing the interviews and materials gathered on site and thinking of solutions for the problems our focus shifted to the one with the highest priority for customs officials – the language barrier between them and the passengers. Since the airport is a place where people of many countries come together, meeting someone who doesn’t speak German or English is inevitable.

Our solution is built upon an interactive surface, equipped with two screens connected to a database with often used questions and sentences in several languages already built in. After specifying the language the customs official can select questions which appear on the passenger’s screen. He can then answer using predefined ones or give a custom response, depending on the question. They are then translated back to the language of the official, enabling quick conversations between them.

The system runs on a computer, allowing extensions like a barcode-scanner connected to a database of goods including their prices and designated region of sale.


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User Research: At customs

User Research, WS1213

As a result of our first little brainstorming, we from team 5 decided to explore the outdoor sector. One of the first ideas coming to our minds was the Airport Munich, due to not only various kinds of sometimes sensitive technologies, but also different sections like the flight safety or the customs interacting or having to interact with each other and people from all over the world – always a potential hazard when thinking of their communication or varying hardware.

Day 1
After the morning session we went to the central customs office in central Munich where we got a quick little introduction into the different departments and exact tasks of the customs. The interviews were arranged for Thursday and especially Friday.

Day 2
We used this day to do some further researches for our appointment on the following day and for some semi-structured telephone interviews.

ImageDay 3
For this day we were lucky to get an appointment with an official from the customs at the Airport Munich who showed us the customs area at the airport and how they work there. By watching them work and interviewing two more customs officials we gained our main ideas and information which we hope to analyze further on Monday.