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Invitation to Industry and Academia - Workshop on methodologies/methods, procedures, best practices on investigating/testing/evaluating border security technologies

One of the most important components of the border control is the specific technology used for border surveillance and checks.   The Member States Border Guard Authorities are constantly looking for efficient and effective technological solutions able to continuously improve their activity at the border.

Depending on the context, either in the development phase (for a customized solution), or when “commercial of the shelf” products are needed, these technologies have to be investigated/tested/assessed by the border guards in the field, in the real operational environment.

Proper methodologies/methods/procedures on performing research/investigating/testing the mentioned technologies are of paramount importance for reaching correct/objective conclusions concerning the equipment/system/product operational effectiveness and suitability, providing a solid and healthy support for taking right decisions and eventually contributing to the de-risking of the investment.   

The diversity of the technologies designed for the border control domain is a large one. Talking about border surveillance, it ranges from binoculars for daylight usage, to those based on the light intensifier tubes for night time detection, from thermal cameras working in different spectral wavelenghts (each of them providing optimal results for a peculiar type of environment) to the multitude types of radars; from unattended ground sensors (seismic, magnetic, etc.) to underwater acoustic sensors. If we talk about incorporating these sensors into specific platforms like airplanes (either manned, unmanned or optionally piloted), blimps, tethered balloons, mobile surveillance vechicles or surveillance towers, and interlinking sensors/platforms or connecting them with the coordination centres, the endeavour of getting into the technology and investigating its efficiency and effectiveness, or the appropriateness for a specific border surveillance scenario became much more complex.

The range of the border checks technologies is also evident. We can talk here about the equipment for investigating the travel documents (passport readers, video spectral comparators etc.),  technologies related to biometry, Automated Border Control gates, sensors for detecting hidden drugs, explosives and other illicit goods (technologies based on X/Gamma rays, endoscopes/boroscopes, ion mobility spectrometry etc.), technologies for detecting people hidden in transportation means (heartbeat detectors, carbon dioxide detectors etc.). If we take into consideration also the communications/IT support, the command and control elements, the use of data bases and of different specific systems, one can realize the complexity of testing such technologies in the field.

Usually the border guard authorities don’t have specific devices or laboratories to test/verify/investigate technologies. On the other hand, the lab measurements and the data from the presentation fliers reflect ideal cases which are not often present in the daily operational life. The border guards would like to assess how specific technologies work during the rain, mist, heavy snow, strong winds, humidity, high temperature, starless nights or dusk time, if they are effective and suitable.

On these lines, Frontex proposes to initiate a series of workshops between Industry, Academia and experts from the Member States Border Guard Authorities having as purpose to invite the former (Industry and Academia) to present to the border guard community mature/proper methodolgies/methods/best practices/procedures on how to plan, design and conduct (including data collection and evaluation) effective tests/assessments of different border security technologies in the real field, able to produce useful and objective measures of technology performance and effectiveness.

The benefit of the Industry and Academia will consist in the fact that:

-the transfer of „know how” to the border guard experts will significantly improve the common work of identifying the best solutions when the supply and the demand sides sit at the same table and are engaged in finding them;

-the assimilation of the methodolgies/methods/best practices/procedures on how to test/investigate different border security technologies in the real field will be reflected in procurement documentation (terms of reference), improving their quality, the quality of the common communication language between the supply and the demand sides, but also in avoiding the requests for parameters which are impossible in practice due to the limits of the technology or nature;

-feedback will be received from the border guard community, at the technical and also operational level, and that will lead to the improvement of the Industry’s/Academia’s methodolgies/methods/procedures used for the field tests;

-a special session might  be organized, where the border guard community will present their best practices in testing/investigating different border security technologies in the real field; the knowledge shared in this case could be also useful to the Industry/Academia;

-contacts will be created and discusions on possible collaborations can be initiated.

The first workshop is envisaged to take place in December 2015. On these lines, Industry and Academia is invited to register their interest in contributing to the mentioned event, as presenters/speakers, by 15 September 2015, at dragos.voicu@frontex.europa.eu. A number of proposals will be selected, based on relevance to the border security domain. The results of the selection and the precise date of the event will be communicated in October 2015.