Border protection is a hot topic in most countries, but it’s even more of a hot-button issue in the United States, where divisive political lines dictate how people feel about related issues. But politics aside, the technology involved in border security is absolutely fascinating to study.
A Look at Border Security Technology
Border security is an important issue for any country. Every developed nation has strict rules and requirements regarding who can enter the country (and for what purposes.)
Canada, for example, uses the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) system to link travel passports electronically. Mexico has requirements as they relate to passports and visas. (Tourist visas are required if you’re visiting from the United States for more than 180 days.) And while every nation has its own systems in place, few countries have to place as much emphasis on border security as the United States.
In the past, border security has been laborious and physically intrusive. Today, new technologies are streamlining travel, tourism and immigration at the border.
Here’s a look at some of the latest trends and developments:
Biometrics is one of the fastest-growing areas of border security (inside and outside of the United States.) Biometric access control, which includes iris scanners, fingerprint scanners and a combination of smart card systems, helps manage the flow of people through immigration and collect important data that can be leveraged for additional security (like Automated Targeting Systems, which will be discussed below.)
2. Drone Surveillance
Drone technology is one of the game-changers for border security over the past decade. It allows border guards from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to have more eyes and ears in problem areas. More specifically, “quadcopters” have become powerful allies for monitoring areas where drug trafficking is common.
“The quadcopters can fly for about 30 minutes at a time, depending on the weather, at a height of about 1,200 feet – depending on airspace restrictions – and have daytime and nighttime infrared cameras with a 30-times optical zoom,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection mentions. “This means agents can stay far out of earshot and stealthily observe whatever is on the ground, whether that’s drug smugglers or illegal aliens.”
Once these drones spot something, they’re able to send the specific coordinates to the agents who are on the ground and direct them to the target using precision lasers.
3. Automated Targeting Systems
The United States has something called the Automated Targeting System (ATS), which is a security and tracking system the DHS uses to assign customized risk profiles to those crossing the nation’s borders. It does so using a computer-generated “risk assessment” that can be stored and referenced for as much as 40 years.
ATS profiles, while controversial, are highly effective. Detractors argue that they have a profoundly negative impact on Americans’ privacy. Supporters point to its efficacy. While there are plenty of situations where ATS profiles get it wrong, they tend to be highly accurate when you look at aggregate numbers. And at the end of the day, border security is a game of averages. Any system with a high success rate is going to be considered useful, even if it has isolated problem areas.
The Future of Border Security
The “hot button” nature of border security means there will always be political disagreements on border security. This makes it difficult to establish the sort of support needed to create lasting change. But it’s possible that a new vision could bring supporters of both major political parties together.
“The vision, as laid out by its bipartisan political supporters, is to build an ocean-to-ocean technological barrier made up of a patchwork of tools like drones and sensors to help surveil and identify unauthorized individuals crossing the border, specifically in remote stretches of land between established ports of entry,” Vox explains.
While a “smart wall” comes with its own set of challenges and opponents, it could provide a cost-effective solution that’s effective at reducing illegal migration and, most importantly, the influx of illegal drugs across the southern border.
The benefits of a smart wall are obvious. Not only does it cost pennies on the dollars (compared to a physical wall), but it can be built without taking land, destroying farms, or ruining the visual landscape.
In order for a smart border to become a more realistic option, it’s likely that we’ll have to wait on more innovation to occur in this space. But for now, it’s a promising option in an area where there are few practical solutions.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant. Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he's also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. Read Larry Alton's Reports — More Here
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