Tactical infrastructure like fencing, roads, and lights are critical to securing a nation’s border. However it alone is not enough to prevent the unlawful movement of men and women and contraband in to 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,” in accordance with testimony from CBP officials at a Senate hearing on homeland security in 2015.
And machine vision’s fingerprints are common over that technology. “The details taken 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 within the nation’s border regions,” the testimony states.
In 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.” 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 in 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 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 downside to vision systems used in border surveillance applications is managing the diversity of your outdoor environment featuring its fluctuating lighting and weather conditions, as well as varied terrain. Inspite of the challenges, “you can find places where 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 along the southern border in the U.S. for illegal passengers.
“Those trains have to go within trellis, which can be designed 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 during the night and in other low-light conditions, but thermal imaging does have its limits, too. “Infrared cameras work really well when 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 certainly 100°F, the desert is emitting radiation at nearly the same portion of the spectrum. So customers count on other areas of the spectrum including shortwave infrared (SWIR) to attempt to catch the main 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 it’s relatively uniform and it’s simple 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 see everything is actually a compromise between having a lot of systems monitoring the water or systems which are loaded with the sky, by which case you will have 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 quality and gratification of the former. To allow for this change, two years ago Adimec Advanced Image Systems bv (Eindhoven, the Netherlands) integrated the most recent generation of CMOS image sensors – that offer 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 keep 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 offer the very best performance. “That is quite some challenge in the sense of integrating power consumption and in addition because you need to provide high voltage to the sensors,” van Rooijen says. “And if you need to have systems operating for a 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 most from the latest generation CMOS to come 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 also is tackling the challenge 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 greater areas.
“When imaging at long range, you might have atmospheric turbulence through the heat rising from your ground, and also on sea level, rising or evaporated water creates problems regarding the haze,” van Rooijen says. “We are going to show turbulence mitigation in the low-latency hardware baked into our platform and definately 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 home security systems generate lots of data that will require analysis. “The surveillance industry traditionally has been a little slower to add analytics,” says Dr. Lee of Pyramid Imaging. “We see significant opportunity there and have been working with a lot of our customers in order that analytics are definitely more automated with regards to what is being detected and also to analyze that intrusion, and after that have the capacity to have a proper response.”
Some companies have developed software that identifies anomalies in persistent monitoring. For example, in case a passenger in the airport suddenly abandons a suitcase, the program will detect that this object is unattended nefqnm anything else around it continues to move.
Even with robust vision-based surveillance capabilities at all points of entry, U.S. border patrol and homeland security have to deal with a lot bigger threat. “The United States does a pretty good job checking people coming in, 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 creates its own problems.
“A good place to do this is at the Automated Vision Inspection Machines in the TSA line, where you can use a mechanism to record everybody,” Dr. Lee continues. “But that is going to be expensive because you need to do this at each 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 takes noncontact fingerprints at TSA each time someone flies. “Much of the American public won’t tolerate that,” Dr. Lee says. “They are likely to argue that fingerprinting is just too much government oversight, which will result in a lot of pressure and pushback.”