Tactical infrastructure such as fencing, roads, and lights are important to securing a nation’s border. But it alone is not enough to prevent the unlawful movement of individuals and contraband into a country.
“Technology is definitely the primary driver of all land, maritime, and air domain awareness – this can become only more apparent as [U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)] faces future threats,” based on testimony from CBP officials with a Senate hearing on homeland security in 2015.
And machine vision’s fingerprints are common over that technology. “The details obtained from fixed and mobile surveillance systems, ground sensors, imaging systems, along with other advanced technologies enhances situational awareness and enables CBP to detect, identify, monitor, and appropriately reply to threats within the nation’s border regions,” the testimony states.
In the U.S.-Mexico border within the state of Arizona, as an example, Top Machine Vision Inspection System Manufacturer persistently detect and track so-called “pieces of interest.” Built to withstand its harsh desert surroundings, IFT is equipped with radar, commercial off-the-shelf daylight cameras and thermal imaging sensors, and microwave transmitters that send data to border agents in the Nogales station for analysis and decision-making.
On the 3 fronts of land, maritime, and aerial surveillance, machine vision companies are providing imaging systems – and, more frequently, research into the generated data – that meet government agencies’ objectives of flexibility, cost effectiveness, as well as simple deployment in border security applications.
Managing Diverse Conditions – The perennial problem with vision systems found in border surveillance applications is handling the diversity of an outdoor environment featuring its fluctuating lighting and climate conditions, as well as varied terrain. Regardless of the challenges, “there are places where you can implement controls to boost upon the intelligence in the system,” says Dr. Rex Lee, president and CEO of Pyramid Imaging (Tampa, Florida). He points to customers who monitor trains over the southern border from the U.S. for illegal passengers.
“Those trains need to go under a trellis, which can be built with the appropriate sensors and lighting to help inspect the trains,” Dr. Lee says. Government departments given the job of border security use infrared cameras to detect targets during the night and then in other low-light conditions, but thermal imaging does have its limits, too. “Infrared cameras work really well whenever you can use them in high-contrast conditions,” Dr. Lee says. “But if you’re trying to pick up a human at 98.6°F over a desert floor which is 100°F, the desert is emitting radiation at nearly the identical area of the spectrum. So customers depend on other areas of the spectrum like shortwave infrared (SWIR) to attempt to catch the real difference.”
Infrared imaging works well in monitoring motorized watercraft since the boat’s engine includes a thermal signature. “What’s nice about water is the fact it’s relatively uniform and it’s very easy to ‘wash out’ that background see anomalies,” Dr. Lee says.
But however , the oceans present an enormous amount of area to cover. Says Dr. Lee, “To view all of it is a compromise between having a lot of systems monitoring the water or systems which can be loaded with the sky, by which case you will find the problem of seeing something really tiny in a huge overall view.”
CMOS Surpasses CCD – One key change in imaging systems found in border surveillance applications is definitely the shift from CCD to CMOS sensors since the latter is surpassing the quality and performance in the former. To allow for this change, 2 yrs ago Adimec Advanced Image Systems bv (Eindhoven, the Netherlands) integrated the most recent generation of CMOS image sensors – that offer significant improvements in image quality and sensitivity – into its TMX combination of rugged commercial off-the-shelf cameras for top-end security applications. TMX cameras keep a maximum frame rate of 60 fps or 30 fps for RGB color images at full HD resolution.
Furthermore, CMOS image sensors are emerging as an alternative for electron-multiplying CCDs (EMCCDs), says Leon van Rooijen, Business Line Director Global Security at Adimec. Due to their superior performance over CCDs in low-light conditions, EMCCDs often are deployed in applications like harbor or coastal surveillance.
But EMCCDs have distinct disadvantages. For example, an EMCCD must be cooled in order to deliver the best performance. “Which is quite some challenge in the feeling of integrating power consumption and in addition because you must provide high voltage for the sensors,” van Rooijen says. “And if you need to have systems operating for any long duration without maintenance, an EMCCD will not be the most effective solution.”
To resolve these challenges, Adimec is concentrating on image processing “to get the best from the latest generation CMOS to come nearer to the performance global security customers are used to with EMCCD without all the downsides of the cost, integration, and reliability,” van Rooijen says.
Adimec is also tackling the process of mitigating the turbulence that takes place with border surveillance systems over very long ranges, particularly as systems that were using analog video are taking steps toward higher resolution imaging to pay for the larger areas.
“When imaging at long range, you have atmospheric turbulence through the heat rising from your ground, as well as on sea level, rising or evaporated water creates problems regarding the haze,” van Rooijen says. “We will show turbulence mitigation inside the low-latency hardware embedded in our platform and definately will work with system integrators to optimize it for land and sea applications since they have the biggest issues with turbulence.”
More Than Pictures – Like machine vision systems deployed in industrial applications, border security systems generate lots of data that will require analysis. “The surveillance industry traditionally has been a little slower to include analytics,” says Dr. Lee of Pyramid Imaging. “We see significant opportunity there and have been working with some of our customers so that analytics are more automated in terms of what is being detected and to analyze that intrusion, and then have the capacity to require a proper response.”
Some companies have developed software that identifies anomalies in persistent monitoring. For instance, if a passenger in the airport suddenly abandons a suitcase, the application will detect that the object is unattended nefqnm everything else around it consistently move.
Even with robust vision-based surveillance capabilities at all points of entry, U.S. border patrol and homeland security need to cope with a lot bigger threat. “The Usa does an excellent job checking people to arrive, but perform a very poor job knowing should they ever leave,” Dr. Lee says. “We know how to solve that problem using technology, but that can cause its own problems.
“The best place to achieve this reaches the Automated Vision Inspection Machines within the TSA line, where you can possess a mechanism to record everybody,” Dr. Lee continues. “But that will be expensive because you need to do this at each and every airport in the usa. Monitoring and recording slows things down, and TSA is under lots of pressure to speed things up.” Another surveillance option that government agencies have discussed is taking noncontact fingerprints at TSA each and every time someone flies. “Most of the American public won’t tolerate that,” Dr. Lee says. “They are going to argue that fingerprinting is simply too much government oversight, and that will result in a large amount of pressure and pushback.”