Monday, July 10, 2017

The Virtual United States - Mexico Border Wall

While President Trump's plans for a border wall to separate the United States from Mexico seems to have taken a backseat to other issues, recent developments show that jurisdictions adjacent to the border region are moving ahead with their own plan to erect a "virtual border wall" that will enable them to screen all entrants into the United States.

According to Businesswire, the Southwestern Border Sheriffs' Coalition (SWBSC) has recently expanded its program to assist 31 Sheriffs' Offices along the U.S./Mexican border in their aim to combat criminal activity and provide border security.  The SWBSC, a charitable organization which helps ensure safety and security along the southwestern border of the United States along 1989 miles of border from San Diego, California to Brownsville, Texas by "...assisting the elected Sheriffs and their personnel in the development of resources and skills through education and training".  In the announcement, Sheriffs in the 31 counties that fall along the 1989 miles of border have partnered with BI2 Technologies to expand the I.R.I.S. biometric identification program.

BI2 Technologies or Biometric Intelligence and Identification Technologies, a privately-held company located in Plymouth, Michigan, was founded in 2005 and claims that it is a "recognized leader in the development and implementation of cost-effective multimodal biometric identity management solutions."  The company created and maintains the only national web-based iris biometric network and database and its products have been endorsed by the National Sheriffs' Association.  Currently, more than 2100 of the 3000 national Sheriff's offices have asked to join BI2's network.

For those of you that are not aware, iris recognition technology can be used to identify individuals through a high-resolution digital photograph of the individual's iris.  Much like a fingerprint, each person's iris is unique, allowing the software to compare an iris scan against a database, allowing identification of the individual.  The image of the iris is taken by a digital camera located between 10 and 18 inches from the individual and, unlike fingerprinting, no contact with the individual is required.  The iris scan itself takes a matter of seconds and can be taken through both glasses and contact lenses and is said to remain unique even if eye surgery takes place.  The recorded scan will be analyzed for over 200 points of potential matching including rings, furrows, freckles and the corona.  This means of identifying an individual is considered to be the fastest and easiest method to identify a user.  According to a study in 2001, iris recognition had the highest biometric accuracy with no false matches in over 2 million cross comparisons as shown on this graphic which compares false match rates for facial recognition, fingerprinting, hand geometry recognition, being recognition and voice recognition:

Here is a graphic showing how iris scanners record identities:

The SBSC will implement BI2 Technologies' advanced iris biometric identification technologies at both Sheriff's offices and in the field using smartphone-based multimodal devices that can gather iris, fingerprint and facial information.  The data collected will then be compared to national, state, local criminal justice and law enforcement databases, allowing Sheriffs and their staff to positively identify "previously enrolled individuals", i.e. those individuals that have had their biometric data previously entered into the database.

The Chairman of the SBSC, Joe Frank Martinez, stated the following:

"Every day, the Sheriffs and their professional staffs confront drug smuggling, human trafficking, stolen vehicles and firearms, crimes against persons, crimes against property and violent crimes such as murder and sexual assaults in their counties. Often, they are fighting sophisticated, well-organized and well-financed transnational criminal organizations. We welcome and need the federal administration’s support in the fight to improve border security and fight criminal activity. We need these cost-effective and proven technologies to combat criminal activities along our southwestern border....While a border wall or fence is a viable solution in some locations, it is only part of the solution. Our courageous, committed and well-trained men and woman must be armed with the right technologies to effectively communicate, cooperate and collaborate with all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to secure our borders and our future. Simply put, the Sheriffs need the best, proven technologies to accurately and rapidly identify those who would cause our citizens harm. That’s why we are pleased to be moving forward immediately.

BI2 Technologies has provided initial funding for this three year trial project and is looking to the federal government for additional future funding.  The technology was expected to be operational in the El Paso and Cameron County Sheriffs' offices (both located in Texas) by the beginning of June, 2017. 

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