Land-based borders help keep out illegal immigration, drug trafficking and sometimes terrorists. A&S investigates what it takes to have a well-controlled border and crossing points.
Land borders are vast with their many areas posing unique problems. Security design is influenced by terrain, accessibility and the relationship between the countries separated by the border.
Securing borders is a matter of national importance. Frost & Sullivan found the North American border control market earned revenues of US$130.4 million in 2007 and estimates it would reach $729.5 million by 2014.
Market participants increasingly invest in research and development to gain an edge in technological competence and to provide enhanced, non-invasive security solutions, said Neelima Sagar, Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst.
Civil identification has an international impact, with the European Union implementing extended access control (EAC) for access protection, said Ng Fook Seng, Asia Senior VP, Security Business Unit, Gemalto. EAC implementation required skilled handling and cooperation from all E.U. members throughout the migration process. It required the setup of a public key infrastructure, with both security mechanisms affecting governments, national printers, the e-passport industry and citizens.
The rise of illegal immigration, fraudulent use of passports and identity theft remain threats that authorities continue to combat, Ng said. Another challenge, specifically for E.U. countries, is to meet the European Commission's requirement for all member nations to include additional digital biometric information on e-passports by mid-2009.
The consequence of implementing the biometric e-passport is that the verification process for these passports — including radio frequency chip reading and new biometric verifications — will increase the average inspection time by an estimated 50 percent or more. “So the introduction of biometric electronic documents will increase security but may also lengthen queues at borders,” Ng said.
Most borders stretch across wide terrain, with few entry points in between. “A multisensor solution is best for all but the smallest of sites,” said Adam Rosenberg, VP of Marketing, Magal Security Systems.
Population density affects border setup. In remote border areas, vandalism is more pressing than real-time response to threats, as it is less likely to be deterred and more expensive to repair. The frequency of agricultural or recreational activity may require more video monitoring solutions to verify activity detected by intrusion systems. For urban areas, physical barriers must deter and delay intruders, as they can vanish quickly into the general population.
Some borders are natural, such as coastlines, while others are man-made. "There are borders, like in Israel, where people actually live on the border and there are countries where there is a no-man zone for several kilometers dividing the two countries,” Rosenberg said. “The first level of defense for a well-controlled border should be represented by a physical barrier (line of demarcation) with sterile zones on both sides, meaning that no vegetation or other distracting and camouflage items should grow or be present on this barrier.”
As no one technology can cover all areas, an ideal solution should have three tiers. The first line of defense, comprising taut wire and intrusion grids, should maintain high security with minimum false alarms. A second tier of video enables alarm verification and radar can be considered on a local basis. Finally, covert systems provide an element of surprise to intruders, who bypass the fist and second defense levels.
Ideally, a country's borders with its neighbors should differ according to threat level, said Omer Laviv, COO for Athena GS3 Security Implementations (MER Group). However, border authorities often decide to use the same solution for every border.
For U.S. borders, its southern Mexican border is more tightly controlled than the northern Canadian one. As for Europe, as more countries have joined the European Union, borders have not only moved but become more strictly controlled as well.
High security borders have sterile zones, created by a double layer of fences parallel to each other, Laviv said. These no-go areas are surveyed as carefully as border fences, measuring from 5 meters thick to 100 meters.
Keeping Threats Out
Fencing varies, with chain-link fences, concrete anti-climb fences and anti-ram fences, said Alan Matchett, Major Projects Security Consultant, Johnson Controls. Fences are built according to terrain, budget, ease of access and threat level.
Border threats range from illegal immigration, terrorism and land disputes, Matchett said. Another threat is theft of resources, such as petroleum or iron ore. Smuggling goods is another threat, encompassing drugs, black market goods and products being taken overseas to avoid taxes and tariffs.
Limited manpower results in fewer entry points than would be ideal, Rosenberg said. The entry point is defined as where a person presents himself for legal access to another country. Electronic systems, such as perimeter, can assist with border security.
Entry points differ, depending on the kind of border activity. Some are trade areas, scanning trucks and their cargo, along with identifying drivers are authorized to pass through. Traffic stops for drug smuggling watch for illegal substances, with law. These entry points deploy perimeter solutions, including spike barriers capable of damaging tires, beam barricades and metal gates. Public address systems warn would-be intruders, while dirt tracks show footprints plainly.
Electronic solutions include detection systems mounted to a fence and buried cables based on seismic vibrations that act as sensors. Microwave detectors, photoelectric beams, and video analytics are also used in borders, which have constant or near-constant power supply.
Biometrics is seeing greater adoption for border applications. “Iris recognition technology has taken a great leap with the development of a solution that can measure from distances more than 20 meters,” Sagar said. “Iris recognition can identify stationary as well as mobile objects and because of this will witness remarkable growth.”
In the face recognition segment, 3-D face recognition eliminates a number of problems such as feature localization, pose, and illumination, Sagar said.
Keeping an Eye Out
Thermal imaging cameras are common for island regions with a coast guard, on oil platforms and at shorelines, Matchett said. They vary according to detection distance and software utilized. Camera housings can be explosion-proof, vandalism-resistant, or bullet-proof. For remote sites, cameras can be mounted on poles that cannot be reached easily.
There are two types of thermal imaging cameras: uncooled detectors and those with cooled detectors, said Christiaan Maras, Marketing Manager Eurasia, FLIR Commercial Vision Systems. Cooled cameras are generally used in border applications, as they provide longer range performance than cameras with uncooled detectors. Some models with cooled detectors can detect man-sized targets from up to 20 kilometers away.
Thermal imaging systems are often used with day/night cameras, Maras said. Installed on a pan-tilt mechanism, these systems can be integrated with radar systems. If an object is spotted by radar, the thermal imaging camera will automatically turn in the right direction, so that it can see what caused a “blip” on the radar screen.
Multisensor configurations can also be equipped with GPS and a digital magnetic compass to ensure the operator knows where the thermal imager is, Maras said. This is important for mobile border security applications. Some systems also have a laser range finder to measure how far an object is.
Command and control centers responsible for a certain border stretch are also becoming more common. These differ according to the solutions and security software installed, utilization, staffing and alert response.
Because of the remoteness of many border cameras — placed miles from the nearest border crossing —the risk of Ethernet systems being hacked is an important security consideration. “When the Ethernet is taken to remote camera positions in the middle of a desert or in a mountain area, it is possible to break into a system and inject your own feeds,” said Alan Hayes, founder and MD of AMG Systems.
Service to remote borders is limited. “It is also worth considering that Ethernet systems require skilled maintenance distributed to all the remote locations,” Hayes said. “If the system breaks down, it can take a very long time to get the network up and running again.”
Reliable transmission of video is crucial at borders to identify potential threats in time. “The need for immediate identification of unwanted individuals crossing borders also means that there is a need to compare images and get a fairly accurate facial recognition done on the spot,” Hayes said. “Uncompressed video images allows for this process to work smoothly and efficiently.”
Video can be sent back to the central monitoring station for real-time processing. "Using uncompressed transmission of the video images caters for application of sophisticated video analytics software, for example for analyzing certain behavioral patterns,” Hayes said. “This could for example be used to alert the control room staff to individuals approaching a crossing point with in intention of placing a bomb or other terrorist activity.”
Different types of sensors are also used at borders, Laviv said. Doppler radars are used to measure velocity and distance of intruding objects. Acoustic sensors are based on frequency. Geophonic or seismic sensors detect drilling, digging, and related activities.
Millimeter wave-based sensors use extremely high frequency, but are not effective over long distances, Laviv said. They cannot differentiate between humans and animals, causing false alarms which can waste manpower, if patrols are dispatched unnecessarily.
The most efficient sensor technologies generally require line of sight from the sensor to the area of concern. “It's easy to see how mountainous terrain can effect sensor placement and even the number of sensors needed for effective coverage,” said Jack Chenevey, Director of Security Solutions, Boeing. “The types of foliage also play a large factor in the selection of the technologies selected. Heavy foliage may require technologies which can penetrate to ‘see' through it.”
Environmental issues include — but are not limited to — whether the system is used 24 hours a day or not. “Additionally, temperature extremes (high or low) may favor a set of technologies over another,” Chenevey said. “If high humidity is an environmental factor, infrared may not be the best choice for visual observation of a border or boundary.”
Unattended ground sensors are suited for some cases, but electrooptic or infrared sensors are more used to perform detailed identification and classification work from remote towers or portable tripod stands. “It really depends on how permanent the installation is meant to be or on the terrain,” Chenevey said. “The terrain may require the sensor to be well above the ground to provide sufficient line of sight.”