Tactical infrastructure like fencing, roads, and lighting is important to securing a nation’s border. However it alone is not enough to avoid the unlawful movement of men and women and contraband in to a country.
“Technology will be the primary driver of all the 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 all over that technology. “The information taken 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.” Designed 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 frequently, 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 found in border surveillance applications is handling the diversity of the outdoor environment featuring its fluctuating lighting and climate conditions, as well as varied terrain. Despite 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 along the southern border in the U.S. for illegal passengers.
“Those trains will need to go under a trellis, which can be designed with the proper sensors and lighting to help inspect the trains,” Dr. Lee says. Government departments 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 when you can utilize them in high-contrast conditions,” Dr. Lee says. “But if you’re attempting to pick up a human at 98.6°F on the desert floor that is 100°F, the desert is emitting radiation at nearly exactly the same part of the spectrum. So customers count on other areas in the spectrum such as shortwave infrared (SWIR) to try to catch the main difference.”
Infrared imaging works well in monitoring motorized watercraft because the boat’s engine includes a thermal signature. “What’s nice about water is the fact that it’s relatively uniform and it’s simple to ‘wash out’ that background see anomalies,” Dr. Lee says.
But however , the oceans present an enormous quantity of area to cover. Says Dr. Lee, “To find out all of it is a compromise between having a whole bunch of systems monitoring the water or systems that are high in the sky, in which case you have the problem of seeing something really tiny in a very large overall view.”
CMOS Surpasses CCD – One key change in imaging systems used in border surveillance applications will be the shift from CCD to CMOS sensors since the latter is surpassing the quality and performance from the former. To accommodate this change, 2 yrs ago Adimec Advanced Image Systems bv (Eindhoven, the Netherlands) integrated the most recent generation of CMOS image sensors – that provide 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 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. 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 instance, an EMCCD needs to be cooled in order to offer the most effective performance. “Which is quite some challenge in the sensation of integrating power consumption and in addition the fact that you must provide high voltage for the sensors,” van Rooijen says. “And if you want to have systems operating to get a long duration without maintenance, an EMCCD is not the very best solution.”
To solve these challenges, Adimec is concentrating on image processing “to have the most from the latest generation CMOS to come nearer to the performance global security customers are used to with EMCCD without each of the downsides of the cost, integration, and reliability,” van Rooijen says.
Adimec also is tackling the task of mitigating the turbulence that takes place with border surveillance systems over very long ranges, particularly as systems that have been using analog video are taking steps toward higher resolution imaging to cover the larger areas.
“When imaging at long range, you have atmospheric turbulence through the heat rising from the ground, as well as on sea level, rising or evaporated water creates problems in terms of the haze,” van Rooijen says. “We will 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 simply because they hold the biggest issues with turbulence.”
A Lot More Than Pictures – Like machine vision systems deployed in industrial applications, border 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 have seen significant opportunity there and have been utilizing a lot of our customers in order that analytics are definitely more automated with regards to what exactly is being detected as well as analyze that intrusion, then be able to take a proper response.”
Some companies have developed software that identifies anomalies in persistent monitoring. For example, if a passenger at the airport suddenly abandons a suitcase, the software 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 need to contend with a lot bigger threat. “The United States does a pretty good job checking people arriving, but we do a very poor job knowing if they ever leave,” Dr. Lee says. “We know how to solve that problem using technology, but that can cause their own problems.
“A good place to get this done are at the Automated Vision Inspection Machines within the TSA line, in which you can use 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 departments 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 reason that fingerprinting is too much government oversight, and will result in a great deal of pressure and pushback.”