New tool for monitoring security at EU's borders

EU Member States need intelligent and efficient systems for the surveillance of the Union's external border. An EU-funded project is working to deliver an automated mobile surveillance support system that can be deployed rapidly to keep track of cross-border activity.

Surveillance of its external border is extremely important for the EU although essentially this is a national responsibility. The EU-funded EWISA project brings together the national authorities in charge of border control from four different Member States (Greece, Finland, Romania and Spain), for the first time, to jointly define and procure R&D services.

EWISA will test a prototype of a mobile and easily deployable IT platform for monitoring various border-related data sources. The system will inform operators when it detects unusual activities.

Of particular interest is the fact that the national authorities involved have jointly defined the research specifications for the project. In addition, an ethical advisory board has been set up so that solutions proposed to help the border guards carry out their duties are in compliance with fundamental rights.

The platform’s performances and fitness for purpose will be tested and evaluated in real-life conditions, at four selected points along the EU’s external border, under fairly diverse scenarios. When the project ends, the participating authorities will share the lessons learned with the partner countries and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

The participating national authorities are not proposing to develop new stand-alone technologies. Rather, their work is expected to bring together existing technologies that can be integrated quickly and economically.

The EWISA system will encompass several key elements. In addition to conventional data-gathering technologies, it is applying video analytics software, a process whereby algorithms are used to automatically monitor and assess surveillance video.

Video analytics can be much more effective and cheaper than humans to assess video footage. Algorithms can be used to monitor real-time video imagery and to sift through recorded video, an otherwise challenging and time-consuming task. Using video analytics in this way, authorities can rapidly pinpoint an irregular event and examine the relevant video segments.

EWISA is also using data-fusion techniques to develop its system. Here, data from different sources, such as underground sensors, radars and surveillance cameras relating to the same real-world object – for example a person behaving suspiciously – is fused into a single, accurate and useful description. Once suspicious activity is detected, the system can rapidly issue a distinct and targeted alert to the appropriate authority.

By assembling the best video analytics, data fusion and reporting solutions in one package, EWISA is expected to validate a prototype of a mobile border-protection system to improve Europe’s capability to survey its external border and better fight international crime.

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