Tactical infrastructure like fencing, roads, and lighting is essential to securing a nation’s border. However it alone is not enough to avoid the unlawful movement of individuals and contraband into a country.
“Technology will be 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 at a Senate hearing on homeland security in 2015.
And machine vision’s fingerprints are common over that technology. “The information extracted from fixed and mobile surveillance systems, ground sensors, imaging systems, and other advanced technologies enhances situational awareness and much better enables CBP to detect, identify, monitor, and appropriately react to threats within the nation’s border regions,” the testimony states.
At the U.S.-Mexico border inside the state of Arizona, for example, Top Machine Vision Inspection System Manufacturer persistently detect and track so-called “pieces of interest.” Created 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 at the Nogales station for analysis and decision-making.
On all 3 fronts of land, maritime, and aerial surveillance, machine vision companies are providing imaging systems – and, more often, analysis of 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 managing the diversity of the outdoor environment featuring its fluctuating lighting and climatic conditions, as well as varied terrain. Despite the challenges, “you can find places that you can implement controls to enhance upon the intelligence from the system,” says Dr. Rex Lee, president and CEO of Pyramid Imaging (Tampa, Florida). He points to customers who monitor trains along the southern border from the U.S. for illegal passengers.
“Those trains have to go within a trellis, which can be designed with the appropriate sensors and lighting to aid inspect the trains,” Dr. Lee says. Government agencies given the job of border security use infrared cameras to detect targets at nighttime and then in other low-light conditions, but thermal imaging does have its limits, too. “Infrared cameras work really well whenever you can make use of them in high-contrast conditions,” Dr. Lee says. “But when you’re seeking to pick up a human at 98.6°F on the desert floor which is 100°F, the desert is emitting radiation at nearly the same area of the spectrum. So customers depend on other regions in the spectrum such as shortwave infrared (SWIR) to attempt to catch the main difference.”
Infrared imaging works well in monitoring motorized watercraft since the boat’s engine features a thermal signature. “What’s nice about water is the fact that it’s relatively uniform and it’s very easy to ‘wash out’ that background see anomalies,” Dr. Lee says.
But however , the oceans present a vast amount of area to protect. Says Dr. Lee, “To see all of it is actually a compromise between having a whole bunch of systems monitoring the water or systems which are high in the sky, in which case you have 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 will be 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, holland) integrated the latest generation of CMOS image sensors – that offer significant improvements in image quality and sensitivity – into its TMX series of rugged commercial off-the-shelf cameras for high-end security applications. TMX cameras maintain 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 a substitute for electron-multiplying CCDs (EMCCDs), says Leon van Rooijen, Business Line Director Global Security at Adimec. Thanks 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 has to be cooled in order to deliver the best performance. “That is certainly quite some challenge in the feeling of integrating power consumption as well as because you have to provide high voltage to the sensors,” van Rooijen says. “And if you wish to have systems operating to get a long duration without maintenance, an EMCCD will not be the most effective solution.”
To resolve these challenges, Adimec is focusing on image processing “to get the best from the most recent generation CMOS to come even closer to the performance global security customers are utilized to with EMCCD without all of the downsides in the cost, integration, and reliability,” van Rooijen says.
Adimec is also tackling the task of mitigating the turbulence that occurs with border surveillance systems over very long ranges, particularly as systems that were using analog video are now taking steps toward higher resolution imaging to cover the larger areas.
“When imaging at long range, you have atmospheric turbulence by the heat rising from the ground, as well as on sea level, rising or evaporated water creates problems with regards to the haze,” van Rooijen says. “We are going to show turbulence mitigation within the low-latency hardware embedded in our platform and will work with system integrators to optimize it for land and sea applications since they hold the biggest difficulties with turbulence.”
More Than Pictures – Like machine vision systems deployed in industrial applications, border home security systems generate lots of data that needs analysis. “The surveillance industry traditionally is a little slower to include analytics,” says Dr. Lee of Pyramid Imaging. “We have seen significant opportunity there and possess been working with some of our customers so that analytics are more automated in terms of precisely what is being detected and to analyze that intrusion, and then be able to take 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 program will detect that the object is unattended nefqnm everything else around it continues to move.
Even with robust vision-based surveillance capabilities whatsoever points of entry, U.S. border patrol and homeland security have to cope with a significantly bigger threat. “The United States does a very good job checking people arriving, but we all do an extremely poor job knowing if they ever leave,” Dr. Lee says. “We know how you can solve that problem using technology, but that produces its own problems.
“The best place to achieve this reaches the Automated Vision Inspection Machines within the TSA line, that you can possess a mechanism to record everybody,” Dr. Lee continues. “But that is going to be expensive because you have to do this at each and every airport in america. 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 has taken noncontact fingerprints at TSA each and every time someone flies. “Most of the American public won’t tolerate that,” Dr. Lee says. “They will argue that fingerprinting is too much government oversight, which will result in a great deal of pressure and pushback.”