Tactical infrastructure such as fencing, roads, and lights are essential to securing a nation’s border. However it alone is not enough to prevent the unlawful movement of individuals and contraband in to a country.
“Technology is definitely the primary driver of all land, maritime, and air domain awareness – this will 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 data obtained from fixed and mobile surveillance systems, ground sensors, imaging systems, as well as other advanced technologies enhances situational awareness and much better enables CBP to detect, identify, monitor, and appropriately respond to threats in the nation’s border regions,” the testimony states.
On the U.S.-Mexico border inside the state of Arizona, for instance, 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 on 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 trouble with vision systems utilized in border surveillance applications is handling the diversity of an outdoor environment using its fluctuating lighting and climate conditions, as well as varied terrain. Regardless of the challenges, “you will find 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 across the southern border of the U.S. for illegal passengers.
“Those trains need to go within a trellis, which can be equipped with the appropriate sensors and lighting to help inspect the trains,” Dr. Lee says. Government agencies tasked with border security use infrared cameras to detect targets at nighttime and 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 when you’re attempting to pick up a human at 98.6°F over a desert floor that 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 try and catch the real 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 it’s relatively uniform and it’s very easy to ‘wash out’ that background and see anomalies,” Dr. Lee says.
But however , the oceans present a huge level of area to cover. Says Dr. Lee, “To see everything is a compromise between having a lot of systems monitoring this type of water or systems that are rich in the sky, where case you will find the problem of seeing something really tiny in a very large overall view.”
CMOS Surpasses CCD – One key change in imaging systems utilized in border surveillance applications is the shift from CCD to CMOS sensors because the latter is surpassing the product quality and gratification from the former. To accommodate this change, a couple of years ago Adimec Advanced Image Systems bv (Eindhoven, holland) integrated the newest 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 high-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 substitute 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 has to be cooled in order to offer the most effective performance. “That is certainly quite some challenge in the feeling of integrating power consumption and also because you have to provide high voltage to the sensors,” van Rooijen says. “And if you wish to have systems operating for a long duration without maintenance, an EMCCD is not really the best solution.”
To resolve these challenges, Adimec is concentrating on image processing “to get the most from the newest generation CMOS in the future even closer to the performance global security customers are used to with EMCCD without all the downsides from 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 which were using analog video are now taking steps toward higher resolution imaging to protect the bigger areas.
“When imaging at long range, you have atmospheric turbulence through the heat rising from your ground, and on sea level, rising or evaporated water creates problems regarding the haze,” van Rooijen says. “We shall show turbulence mitigation in the low-latency hardware baked into our platform and can work with system integrators to optimize it for land and sea applications because they hold the biggest problems with turbulence.”
Greater Than Pictures – Like machine vision systems deployed in industrial applications, border home security systems generate a lot of data that needs analysis. “The surveillance industry traditionally is a little slower to include analytics,” says Dr. Lee of Pyramid Imaging. “We see significant opportunity there and also have been working with some of our customers in order that analytics are definitely more automated with regards to what exactly is being detected and also to analyze that intrusion, and then have the ability to have a proper response.”
Some companies have developed software that identifies anomalies in persistent monitoring. As an example, in case a passenger at the airport suddenly abandons a suitcase, the software will detect the object is unattended nefqnm everything around it continues to move.
Even with robust vision-based surveillance capabilities in any way points of entry, U.S. border patrol and homeland security must deal with a lot bigger threat. “The Usa does a very good job checking people arriving, but we all do a very poor job knowing if they ever leave,” Dr. Lee says. “We know how you can solve that problem using technology, but that creates its very own problems.
“The right place to get this done are at the Automated Vision Inspection Machines inside the TSA line, in which you can use 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 the usa. Monitoring and recording slows things down, and TSA is under lots of pressure to speed things up.” Another surveillance option that government departments have discussed takes noncontact fingerprints at TSA each time someone flies. “Much of the American public won’t tolerate that,” Dr. Lee says. “They are going to debate that fingerprinting is just too much government oversight, and will result in a great deal of pressure and pushback.”