Tactical infrastructure such as fencing, roads, and lighting is critical to securing a nation’s border. However it alone is not enough to stop the unlawful movement of men and women and contraband into a country.
“Technology will be the primary driver of all the 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 over that technology. “The information extracted from fixed and mobile surveillance systems, ground sensors, imaging systems, along with other advanced technologies enhances situational awareness and 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 comes 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 three 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, as well as simple deployment in border security applications.
Managing Diverse Conditions – The perennial downside to vision systems utilized in border surveillance applications is managing the diversity of your outdoor environment using its fluctuating lighting and climatic conditions, as well as varied terrain. Inspite of the challenges, “you can find places in which you can implement controls to enhance 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 over the southern border in the U.S. for illegal passengers.
“Those trains need to go under a trellis, which can be equipped with the proper sensors and lighting to assist inspect the trains,” Dr. Lee says. Government departments given the job of border security use infrared cameras to detect targets during the night as well as in other low-light conditions, but thermal imaging has its limits, too. “Infrared cameras work really well whenever you can use them in high-contrast conditions,” Dr. Lee says. “But if you’re seeking to pick up a human at 98.6°F on the desert floor that is 100°F, the desert is emitting radiation at nearly the same part of the spectrum. So customers count on other areas from the spectrum including shortwave infrared (SWIR) to try and catch the main difference.”
Infrared imaging works well in monitoring motorized watercraft because the boat’s engine features a thermal signature. “What’s nice about water is 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 huge quantity of area to protect. Says Dr. Lee, “To view all of it is really 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 huge overall view.”
CMOS Surpasses CCD – One key change in imaging systems utilized in border surveillance applications is the shift from CCD to CMOS sensors since the latter is surpassing the standard and performance from the former. To support this change, 2 yrs ago Adimec Advanced Image Systems bv (Eindhoven, the Netherlands) integrated the latest 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 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. Because of 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 provide the very best performance. “Which is quite some challenge in the feeling of integrating power consumption and in addition because you have to 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 resolve these challenges, Adimec is working on image processing “to have the most out of the most recent generation CMOS to come nearer to the performance global security customers are used to with EMCCD without all the downsides in the cost, integration, and reliability,” van Rooijen says.
Adimec is also tackling the process of mitigating the turbulence that develops with border surveillance systems over very long ranges, particularly as systems that have been using analog video are now taking steps toward higher resolution imaging to cover the greater areas.
“When imaging at long range, you might have atmospheric turbulence from 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 shall show turbulence mitigation inside the low-latency hardware a part of our platform and can work with system integrators to optimize it for land and sea applications simply because they hold the biggest problems with turbulence.”
A Lot More Than Pictures – Like machine vision systems deployed in industrial applications, border security systems generate plenty of data that will require analysis. “The surveillance industry traditionally is a little slower to incorporate analytics,” says Dr. Lee of Pyramid Imaging. “We see significant opportunity there and have been utilizing some of our customers to ensure that analytics tend to be more automated with regards to what is being detected and to analyze that intrusion, then be able to have a proper response.”
Some companies have developed software that identifies anomalies in persistent monitoring. For instance, when a passenger at the airport suddenly abandons a suitcase, the software will detect that this object is unattended nefqnm everything around it consistently move.
Even with robust vision-based surveillance capabilities whatsoever points of entry, U.S. border patrol and homeland security need to cope with a lot bigger threat. “The United States does a pretty good job checking people coming in, but we do a really poor job knowing if they ever leave,” Dr. Lee says. “We know how to solve that problem using technology, but that creates its own problems.
“The best place to achieve this reaches the Automated Vision Inspection Machines inside the TSA line, in which you can possess a mechanism to record everybody,” Dr. Lee continues. “But that will be expensive because you need to do this at every airport in the United States. Monitoring and recording slows things down, and TSA is under a lot of pressure to speed things up.” Another surveillance option that government departments have discussed has taken noncontact fingerprints at TSA every time someone flies. “Most of the American public won’t tolerate that,” Dr. Lee says. “They will argue that fingerprinting is simply too much government oversight, and that will result in a great deal of pressure and pushback.”