CBP's border system tests include a drive-through sandbox

GCN Awards Most information technology departments use a sandbox -- an isolated test environment -- to test new software and work out any bugs before putting it into production. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative required more than setting up a server to run the tests. U.S. Customs and Border Protection also had to optimize other elements, such as as the best configuration of radio frequency identification antennas in a car lane, how to tune and angle the antennas, and how to set the radiated power for best performance in reading the RFID-enabled cards.

“One of the smartest things we did on this project was to establish a test lane facility,” said Christopher Milowic, branch director of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Information Technology. “We would install the systems there and do the optimization before anything went out to the ports.”

A mock-up of a border station was constructed at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center headquarters in Glynco, Ga.

In addition to helping CBP tweak the RFID system, the facility was also used to validate any processes used in the deployment. For example, the CBP required contractor Unisys to use the test lane facility as the first deployment site, including conducting a site survey and going through a complete construction and deployment activity.

“This allowed them to exercise their internally developed processes and make them more efficient, so they put best foot forward when they went out to the port environment,” Milowic said.

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