Immigration service patrols with sensors and video

Immigration service patrols with sensors and video

Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System combines detection and data to improve border security

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

The Immigration and Naturalization Service's Border Patrol is using a combination of ground sensors and video data to help prevent contraband and illegal immigrants from crossing U.S. borders.

Walt Drabik, INS' Electronics Systems Section chief, has nurtured the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System since 1995. As ISIS has evolved, its technology has matured to provide additional capabilities, he said.

The Intelligent Computer-Aided Detection system, which predates ISIS by several years, makes the data flowing from the remote ISIS equipment intelligible, said David Messier, the service's ICAD program manager.





Florinda Gonzales, a communications assistant at the Border Patrol station in Laredo, Texas, monitors ICAD and ISIS to help field agents apprehend people trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.



INS recently began implementing the third version of ICAD nationally.

Border Patrol assistant chief Bruce Cook said ISIS serves as the extended eyes and ears of agents whose duties are stretched too far.

On their own

Drabik said that when he took charge of the ISIS project four years ago INS relied mostly on its 4,800 Border Patrol officers to guard 8,000 miles of border. Only a handful of cameras and decade-old sensors supported the agents.

ISIS, developed with International Microwave Corp. of East Norwalk, Conn., adds technological prowess to the Border Patrol's efforts.

The patrol now has 13,000 seismic, magnetic and infrared ground sensors along the borders, Drabik said.

The sensors can detect movement and heat sources within a 50-foot radius and metal within 250 feet, he said.

The Border Patrol has also installed 73 high-resolution and infrared cameras on poles. Agents at Border Patrol stations in 21 sectors remotely control the cameras, which scan up to a five-mile radius.

The combination of cameras and sensors tells the agents the location of any activity, the number of people and whether they are armed.

These critical bits of information help station agents decide which officers to dispatch.

ISIS supplies a higher degree of safety for agents and the people attempting illegal entrance, Cooke said.

'The majority of people we catch crossing the border are decent people coming for economic reasons, and we don't want to lose sight of that,' he said. 'But we need to protect our sovereignty as well.'

Agents at border stations must interpret images from the cameras visually. ICAD filters and analyzes information flowing from the remote sensors, Messier said. He has worked on ICAD since 1989, adding capabilities as new technology became available.

The Border Patrol deployed ICAD II in early 1994. The system runs under IBM OS/2 on PCs, which provide a user-friendly interface and multitasking environment, Messier said.

Messier said that added storage capacity also prompted the upgrade. ICAD II can provide analysis of any one of more than 100,000 records within minutes.

The Border Patrol has now begun deploying ICAD III, which has enhanced ISIS' surveillance features, at seven sites.

Stations in San Diego and Swanton, Vt., implemented the system in early 1998. Three Texas sites'El Paso, Laredo and McAllen'along with Arizona sites in Tucson and Yuma deployed the system this summer.

Two databases support ICAD III, which runs under Microsoft Windows NT on Pentium III servers with 128M of RAM.

The ICAD II database of 100,000 records gives individual stations on-demand access and analysis of several months of information.

The ICAD III records reside in an Oracle7 database on a Unix server that holds 650,000 records and can absorb 3 million to 4 million records per year. Data from the earlier ICAD II system will be rolled into the newer database.

The National ICAD Data Analysis server also supports the system by mirroring ICAD III data, Messier said.

Besides providing system backup, the server supports mapping applications and communicates with INS' national database server.

If the INS network goes down for an extended period, ICAD III can still operate, using the mirrored database. Once the network has been restored, ICAD data resynchronizes with the national database.

INS also improved its network reliability. Communications between the ICAD III servers and clients run through TCP/IP.

'Additional provisions were developed into the ICAD system to detect network failures and automatically reconnect without impacting critical system operation,' Messier said. 'We had to make our system smarter. ICAD keeps a permanent TCP/IP connection and processes 200 to 300 bytes a second.'

ICAD III uses an Internet encryption and authentication system from RSA Data Security Inc. of Redwood City, Calif., to secure ISIS information.

The system maintains an extensive audit of successful and unsuccessful entries into the network to monitor potential hackers.

Coast to coast

ICAD III will be the first version to be managed on a national level, giving once-isolated regions a broader perspective. Sectors have used previous ICAD versions for regional data collection, tracking and analysis.

ICAD II use was limited to a single LAN supporting up to six clients. Each ICAD III server can support up to 20 clients in a WAN extending thousands of miles.

'At each site, we are training up to 70 or more people over a period of seven to 10 days,' Messier said.

An integrated distribution system makes ICAD III updates available nationwide within several minutes. This process is initiated from the ICAD Development Center in Burlington, Vt. Previous versions required manual upgrades via disk.

Information provided through the center also allows Border Patrol sectors to compare and contrast trends depicted graphically.

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