Tactical infrastructure like 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 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,” in accordance with testimony from CBP officials with a Senate hearing on homeland security in 2015.
And machine vision’s fingerprints are all over that technology. “The information obtained from fixed and mobile surveillance systems, ground sensors, imaging systems, and other advanced technologies enhances situational awareness and enables CBP to detect, identify, monitor, and appropriately react to threats within the nation’s border regions,” the testimony states.
On the U.S.-Mexico border in the state of Arizona, as an example, Top Machine Vision Inspection System Manufacturer persistently detect and track so-called “items 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 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 often, research into the generated data – that meet government agencies’ objectives of flexibility, cost effectiveness, and simple deployment in border security applications.
Managing Diverse Conditions – The perennial problem with vision systems used in border surveillance applications is managing the diversity of the outdoor environment featuring its fluctuating lighting and weather conditions, as well as varied terrain. Despite the challenges, “you will find places that you can implement controls to enhance upon the intelligence from 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 from the U.S. for illegal passengers.
“Those trains will need to go within trellis, which can be built with the appropriate sensors and lighting to aid inspect the trains,” Dr. Lee says. Government agencies given the job of 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 whenever you can utilize them in high-contrast conditions,” Dr. Lee says. “But when 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 the identical part of the spectrum. So customers depend on other regions from the spectrum such as shortwave infrared (SWIR) to try and catch the main difference.”
Infrared imaging works well in monitoring motorized watercraft since 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 and see anomalies,” Dr. Lee says.
But however , the oceans present a vast level of area to protect. Says Dr. Lee, “To find out all of it is really a compromise between having a lot of systems monitoring this type of water or systems which can be rich in the sky, where 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 will be the shift from CCD to CMOS sensors because the latter is surpassing the standard and satisfaction of the former. To accommodate this change, a couple of years ago Adimec Advanced Image Systems bv (Eindhoven, holland) integrated the latest generation of CMOS image sensors – which 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 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 an alternative 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 must be cooled in order to deliver the very best performance. “Which is quite some challenge inside the sensation of integrating power consumption and in addition the fact that you have to provide high voltage for the sensors,” van Rooijen says. “And if you need 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 best from the most recent generation CMOS to come closer to the performance global security customers are used to with EMCCD without each of the downsides from 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 bigger areas.
“When imaging at long range, you might have atmospheric turbulence from the heat rising from 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 in the low-latency hardware a part of our platform and will work with system integrators to optimize it for land and sea applications since they possess the biggest issues with turbulence.”
More Than Pictures – Like machine vision systems deployed in industrial applications, border security systems generate lots of data that will require analysis. “The surveillance industry traditionally has been a little slower to incorporate analytics,” says Dr. Lee of Pyramid Imaging. “We percieve significant opportunity there and have been dealing with some of our customers in order that analytics are definitely more automated with regards to what is being detected and also to analyze that intrusion, then be able to require a proper response.”
Some companies have developed software that identifies anomalies in persistent monitoring. For example, in case a passenger at the airport suddenly abandons a suitcase, the program will detect that this object is unattended nefqnm anything else around it will continue to move.
Even with robust vision-based surveillance capabilities in any way points of entry, U.S. border patrol and homeland security must cope with a significantly bigger threat. “America does an excellent job checking people arriving, but we all do a very poor job knowing when they ever leave,” Dr. Lee says. “We know how you can solve that problem using technology, but that produces its own problems.
“The right place to achieve this reaches the Automated Vision Inspection Machines inside the TSA line, that you can possess a mechanism to record everybody,” Dr. Lee continues. “But that will be expensive because you have 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 agencies have discussed takes noncontact fingerprints at TSA every time someone flies. “Most of the American public won’t tolerate that,” Dr. Lee says. “They are likely to debate that fingerprinting is too much government oversight, and that will result in a great deal of pressure and pushback.”