Tactical infrastructure like fencing, roads, and lighting is essential to securing a nation’s border. However it alone is not enough to stop the unlawful movement of men and women and contraband in to 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,” according to 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 obtained from fixed and mobile surveillance systems, ground sensors, imaging systems, along with other advanced technologies enhances situational awareness and much better enables CBP to detect, identify, monitor, and appropriately react to threats inside the nation’s border regions,” the testimony states.
At the U.S.-Mexico border inside the state of Arizona, as an example, Top Machine Vision Inspection System Manufacturer persistently detect and track so-called “items 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 on 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 regularly, analysis of the generated data – that meet government agencies’ objectives of flexibility, cost effectiveness, and simple deployment in border security applications.
Managing Diverse Conditions – The perennial trouble with vision systems used in border surveillance applications is managing the diversity of your outdoor environment with its fluctuating lighting and climatic conditions, as well as varied terrain. Regardless of the challenges, “you can find places in which you can implement controls to boost upon the intelligence of the system,” says Dr. Rex Lee, president and CEO of Pyramid Imaging (Tampa, Florida). He points to customers who monitor trains across the southern border of the U.S. for illegal passengers.
“Those trains have to go within a trellis, which can be equipped 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 at night as well as in other low-light conditions, but thermal imaging does have its limits, too. “Infrared cameras work really well whenever you can utilize them in high-contrast conditions,” Dr. Lee says. “But when you’re trying 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 identical part of the spectrum. So customers rely on other parts of the spectrum including shortwave infrared (SWIR) to try to catch the difference.”
Infrared imaging works well in monitoring motorized watercraft because the boat’s engine has a thermal signature. “What’s nice about water is the fact that it’s relatively uniform and it’s easy to ‘wash out’ that background and see anomalies,” Dr. Lee says.
But however , the oceans present an enormous quantity of area to pay for. Says Dr. Lee, “To view all of it is actually a compromise between having a whole bunch of systems monitoring the water or systems which can be rich in the sky, in which case you will find the problem of seeing something really tiny in a large overall view.”
CMOS Surpasses CCD – One key change in imaging systems used in border surveillance applications is definitely the shift from CCD to CMOS sensors because the latter is surpassing the standard and performance from the former. To support this change, a couple of years ago Adimec Advanced Image Systems bv (Eindhoven, holland) integrated the most recent generation of CMOS image sensors – that offer significant improvements in image quality and sensitivity – into its TMX number of rugged commercial off-the-shelf cameras for top-end security applications. TMX cameras have 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 replacement 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 needs to be cooled in order to provide the very best performance. “Which is quite some challenge in the sensation of integrating power consumption and also the fact that you need to provide high voltage to the sensors,” van Rooijen says. “And if you want to have systems operating for any long duration without maintenance, an EMCCD is not really the most effective solution.”
To resolve these challenges, Adimec is focusing on image processing “to get the best from the newest generation CMOS in the future 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 task of mitigating the turbulence that takes place with border surveillance systems over very long ranges, particularly as systems which were using analog video are taking steps toward higher resolution imaging to protect the bigger areas.
“When imaging at long range, you may have atmospheric turbulence by the heat rising through the ground, and on sea level, rising or evaporated water creates problems in terms of the haze,” van Rooijen says. “We shall show turbulence mitigation within the low-latency hardware baked into our platform and will work with system integrators to optimize it for land and sea applications since they have the biggest difficulties with turbulence.”
A Lot More Than Pictures – Like machine vision systems deployed in industrial applications, border home security systems generate a lot of data that requires analysis. “The surveillance industry traditionally has been a little slower to incorporate analytics,” says Dr. Lee of Pyramid Imaging. “We have seen significant opportunity there and also have been utilizing a lot of our customers in order that analytics are definitely more automated when it comes to what exactly is being detected and also to analyze that intrusion, then be able to take a proper response.”
Some companies have developed software that identifies anomalies in persistent monitoring. For instance, when a passenger in the airport suddenly abandons a suitcase, the software will detect that the object is unattended nefqnm everything around it continues to move.
Even with robust vision-based surveillance capabilities whatsoever points of entry, U.S. border patrol and homeland security need to cope with a significantly bigger threat. “America does a pretty good job checking people coming in, but we all do a really poor job knowing if they ever leave,” Dr. Lee says. “We know the best way to solve that problem using technology, but that produces their own problems.
“The best place to do this are at the Automated Vision Inspection Machines inside the TSA line, that you can have a mechanism to record everybody,” Dr. Lee continues. “But that is going to be expensive because you have to do this at 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 is taking noncontact fingerprints at TSA every time someone flies. “Most of the American public won’t tolerate that,” Dr. Lee says. “They are going to argue that fingerprinting is too much government oversight, and will result in a great deal of pressure and pushback.”