Improvements In Machine Vision Enhance Border Surveillance

Tactical infrastructure such as fencing, roads, and lighting is critical to securing a nation’s border. But it alone is not enough to prevent the unlawful movement of people and contraband into a country.

“Technology is 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 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 better enables CBP to detect, identify, monitor, and appropriately respond to threats in the nation’s border regions,” the testimony states.

At the U.S.-Mexico border in the state of Arizona, for example, Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) systems persistently detect and track so-called “items 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 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 frequently, analysis of the generated data – that meet government agencies’ objectives of flexibility, cost effectiveness, and easy deployment in border security applications.

Managing Diverse Conditions

The perennial problem with vision systems used in border surveillance applications is managing the diversity of an outdoor environment with its fluctuating lighting and weather conditions, as well as varied terrain. Despite the challenges, “there are places where you can implement controls to improve 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 of the U.S. for illegal passengers.

“Those trains have to go under 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 night and in other low-light conditions, but thermal imaging has its limits, too. “Infrared cameras work really well when you can use them in high-contrast conditions,” Dr. Lee says. “But if you’re trying to pick up a human at 98.6°F on a desert floor that is 100°F, the desert is emitting radiation at nearly the same part of the spectrum. So customers rely on other parts of the spectrum such as shortwave infrared (SWIR) to try to catch the difference.”

Infrared imaging works well in monitoring motorized watercraft since the boat’s engine has a thermal signature. “What’s nice about water is that it’s relatively uniform and it’s easy to ‘wash out’ that background and see anomalies,” Dr. Lee says.

But the problem is that the oceans present a vast amount of area to cover. Says Dr. Lee, “To see 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 is the shift from CCD to CMOS sensors because the latter is surpassing the quality and performance of the former. To accommodate this change, two years ago Adimec Advanced Image Systems bv (Eindhoven, the Netherlands) integrated the latest generation of CMOS image sensors – which offer significant improvements in image quality and sensitivity – into its TMX series of rugged commercial off-the-shelf cameras for high-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 replacement 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 example, an EMCCD needs to be cooled in order to deliver the best performance. “That is quite some challenge in the sense of integrating power consumption and also the fact that 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 the best solution.”

To solve these challenges, Adimec is working on image processing “to get the most out of the latest generation CMOS to come closer to the performance global security customers are used to with EMCCD without all the downsides of the cost, integration, and reliability,” van Rooijen says.

Adimec also is tackling the challenge of mitigating the turbulence that occurs with border surveillance systems over very long ranges, particularly as systems that were using analog video are now taking steps toward higher resolution imaging to cover the larger areas.

“When imaging at long range, you have atmospheric turbulence by 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 will show turbulence mitigation in the low-latency hardware embedded in our platform and will work with system integrators to optimize it for land and sea applications because they have the biggest issues with turbulence.”

More Than Pictures

Like machine vision systems deployed in industrial applications, border security systems generate a lot of data that requires analysis. “The surveillance industry traditionally has been a little slower to incorporate analytics,” says Dr. Lee of Pyramid Imaging. “We see significant opportunity there and have been working with some of our customers so that analytics are more automated in terms of what is being detected and to analyze that intrusion, and 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 as everything 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 contend with a much 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 do this is at the x-ray machines in the TSA line, where you can have 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 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 is taking noncontact fingerprints at TSA every time someone flies. “Much of the American public won’t tolerate that,” Dr. Lee says. “They are going to argue that fingerprinting is too much government oversight, and that will result in a lot of pressure and pushback.”

Still, in polls taken over the past decade, Americans recognize the need to secure ports of entry. Machine vision will continue to provide, and improve upon, that service, thanks to CMOS performance, new techniques to mitigate diverse environmental conditions, and the continued automation of analytics.

Top Logistics Company – New Technological Advancements

Living in a hyper-connected logistics industry, it is hard to ascertain the types of new technological advancements that will take place to reduce the cost and time of big business houses. In this modern era where every role and functions are transferring from humanoids to robots, a third-party logistics company will have to start working on these aspects to gain the productivity.

With the growth in the logistics landscape, there are few technologies that are likely to impact the industry in some way or another. Take a look at the below-mentioned advancements that are likely to star in near future.

More Use of RFID, AIDC, and Internet of Things

(AIDC) Automatic identification and data capture images, sounds or videos to read the items or objects. With this up gradation, it is easy to know real-time location of consignments, estimated time for the delivery or reasons for delayed shipment.

(RFID) Radio- Frequency Identification uses an electromagnetic field to identify or locate the ships with items. This method can easily fetch information or details about each and every transaction.

Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical devices that are embedded with sensors which enable easy fetch or exchange of data of devices.

The above advancements will help to reduce the downtime by enhancing the workflow of shipment to meet the customer’s, and provider’s demand.

Acceptance of Bluetooth

With non-data -driven (Without internet packs or data) approach by third-party logistics company it will be easy to identify the real-time information of any transaction or activity taking place.

This technique is not only effective but less laborious as well. It can help to identify the shipments or consignments taking place to meet the requirements of customers duly.

Emergence of the E-Commerce and Omni Channel Solutions

The demand for strong online presence will also grow in this industry. A top logistics company will have to work on more of strategies that can satisfy the consumer online. From Omni- channel the focus will be laid upon the value of product or service not just only on the end products.

Currently, cloud-based platforms are the base for building customer’s interaction with businesses, in future more effective ways will be seen to have a strong connection with the potential users. Thus, businesses are required to focus on their online presence as well to gain the acceptance of the people.


From RFID enabled technology to growth of Omni channel measures, the improvement and growth will continue to cultivate or change in this industry. A top logistics company will have to focus on these imperative shifts to observe the needs of clients and respond back constructively.