The Internet of Everything and the Border

By K. David Du (@Kentsinoroyale)

I. A Revolution of Technology and the Physical Security of the Border

            There is a revolution happening from within our homes, our workspaces, and throughout the globe. The world has been fundamentally changed by the internet and information technology and without other words to qualify; the world is increasingly becoming a smaller and theoretically, a much more harmonious place to live in.

Therefore, there is no question that the internet age has changed the rules in how nation states, multinational corporations, non-governmental organizations, and individuals interact with each other through cultural, commercial, economical, financial, and notably, informational interlinks and interfaces.

However, within the backdrop of this technological revolution, there are less than legitimate forces that will utilize the tools of the future to leverage their nefarious schemes. These violent non-state actors are criminal: human and drug trafficking rings, global terrorist organizations, hackers, and other forms of transnational criminal activity.

In this essay, I will focus on three issues: current U.S. – Mexico border security, the internet of everything, and lastly, speak about how through science and technology we can facilitate success in our border security with Mexico.

II. The Crossing

            In 2011, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a treasure trove of information regarding immigrant enforcement actions, which involves the apprehension, arrest, detention, return, and removal from the United States of foreign nationals who have broken U.S. immigration law[1].

Regardless of the overall worldwide origins of illegal penetration into the United States, the highest level of arrests, detention, repatriation and violent criminal activity from foreign nationals have been from Mexico.

With a border spanning about 2,000 miles westward from Imperial Beach, CA to Brownsville, TX, the border region between the United States and Mexico is one of the most volatile regions in the world. From within this span, thousands of legal border crossings, freight transportation, monetary transactions, and other economic activity happen daily.

Conversely, it shouldn’t be a surprise that as a byproduct of successful cross-border economic activity illegal immigration and drug trafficking from Mexico would follow such economic trends.

According to a 2011 DHS report on Immigration Enforcement Actions, the United States Border Patrol was responsible for 340,252 apprehensions[2] of illegal foreign nationals. Of that number, ninety-six percent has been from the United States southwest border with Mexico. Additionally, of that same number seventy-six percent were of Mexican origin.

Apprehension levels have dropped in 2011 by 27 percent compared to 2010 levels (450,000 in 2010 versus 330,000 in 2011), however major cities such Tucson, Arizona (123,000 apprehensions); Rio Grande Valley, Texas (60,000); and San Diego, CA (42,000) have still retained a higher rate of apprehensions along the border.

Alternatively, detaining and removing illegal foreign nationals from the border continues to be a problem for border security. In 2011, ICE had detained 430,000 foreign nationals under the Criminal Alien Program, a population that has increased by eighteen percent since 2010. Sixty-seven percent of those detained were from Mexico.

Another statistic involves the removal or deportation of foreign nationals. Of the 385,000 cases of deportations from the United States, Mexican nationals had accounted for seventy-five percent.

My final set of statistics from the DHS report involves criminal activity as a reason for detention and deportation. Approximately 190,000 nationals were deported because of a criminal conviction; of that number 145,000 cases were from Mexican nationals. Of note, the number of criminal Mexican deportees had increased in 2011 from its 2010 levels, which were at 128,000 cases.

In the same report, statistics of crimes conducted by illegal foreign nationals in 2011 have also been released: dangerous drugs, which included manufacturing, distribution, sale, and possession accounted for twenty-three percent; criminal traffic offenses, which included hit and run and DUI offences, accounted for twenty-two percent; and illegal immigration offenses, which includes illegal entry and reentry, false claims of citizenship, and alien smuggling, have accounted for 20 percent.  Of the last thirty-five percent of criminal activity, DHS has included activities such as assault, larceny, fraud, burglary, robbery, sexual assault, and family offences for statistical purposes.

Thus, there’s no question that U.S.-Mexico border security still has many issues that span from criminal to non-criminal. However, with the arrival of the internet of everything, these issues will be less certain as time goes by.

III. The Revolution

            Firstly, what is the internet of everything?

According to Cisco, the internet of everything is about “bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before—turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries”[3].

However, in my opinion, the internet of everything will be a point in history where society, high technology (especially information technology), physical things, the internet, and ultimately, humanity will fuse together to create a world in which both the physical world and the digital world is a seamless experience.

We are not there yet.

According to Cisco, only one percent of things are currently connected to the internet. However despite the lack of developmental integration, there have been many advances in information technology that has already changed our ways of living. Much like Hegelian dialectics, the idea of the internet of everything lies farther in the fluctuating future, with technologies and advances we cannot portent or even comprehend. However in the interim, our society exists within the internet of things, a state much less connected than the internet of everything, but a state in which humanity can still effectively harness high technologies for both positive and negative outcomes.

Smartphones have been a very important bridge towards the internet of everything, while existing in the confines of internet of things. A smartphone allows its to do a multitude of things such as making basic phone calls but it is through a smartphone’s capability of doing not traditional mobile services that is changing the world. For example, a typical smartphone is capable of accessing the internet through his smartphone. Through this capability, the can make a multitude of decisions such as reading a book or digital document, make a digital purchase order, socialize through social networking services such as Facebook or Twitter, uploading pictures through the apps such as Instagram, and lastly conducting traditional informational internet services such as the inquiry of databases, the ability to write data, and share it.

Additionally, early sophistication of artificial intelligence has been implemented into smartphones with breakthrough technologies such as SIRI by Apple. SIRI is capable of taking complex voice commands from its to task itself with a personal assistant function: it GPS, internet analytics, and other forms information intelligence to contextualize services, information, downloading applications, and other functions for its user.

Accordingly, according to business intelligence firm KPCB[4], current internet trends show global internet usage is growing; internet usage is becoming more diversified through its utilization through non-traditional “computers/things” such as smartphones and tablet computers; and through the internet of everything many traditional services and products have been reimagined through digital interfaces and interlinks such as art, books, communication, education, entertainment, finance, information flows, the market place, music, news publications, and even the yellow pages.

Thus, though we live in the internet of things, many breakthroughs have been created that will eventually lead to the Internet of everything, an ecosystem that has the potential of facilitating global communication, trade, diplomacy while presenting new challenges to traditional problems such as border security.

IV. Border Security, Trade, the Internet of everything

            According to Global Trends 2030, a U.S. Government report by the National Intelligence Council, “During the next 15-20 years, the hardware, software, and connectivity aspects of IT will experience massive growth in the capability and complexity as well as more widespread diffusion. This growth and diffusion will present significant challenges for governments and societies, which mU.S.t find ways to capture the benefit of new IT technologies while dealing with the new threats that those technologies present.”

Thus, by 2030, the U.S. Government expects a very different world complicated by advances from the information technology, which both potentially help U.S.-Mexico border security or challenge it.

In this final section, I will try to avoid the obvious problems of futurism by writing about modern innovations from the Internet of everything era and discuss how these technologies may organically evolve during the Internet of everything era for the purposes of border security and Global trade.

As stated earlier, there are many hurdles and challenges that the U.S. Government faces in terms of its cross-border security with Mexico which has much to do with both formal and informal exchanges throughout the border region. Trade, societal and governmental cooperation is a positive outcome, while transnational crime such as drug trafficking, human smuggling and other organized crime is a crisis point for border security. With this in mind, the ramifications of the internet of everything era will be profound.

In this section, I will focus on smart cards and passports, sensors and surveillance, and lastly, Geospatial Information Systems (GIS).

The most common way of legal international passage throughout the world whether through air, land, or sea is by usage of proper identification such as passports or internationally recognized driver’s license. In today’s modern environment, smart passports and passport cards are a part of validating a traveler’s identity.

For passports, these countries have implemented a passport program that uses biometrics and other high tech improvements to deter counterfeiters and facilitate fast, effective legal cross-border activity. Important features of this new type of passport are the utilization of microprocessors, antennae, and data storage embedded within the passport or card, all of which help verify who someone is, their legal status within the country, and other important data such as a person’s facial characteristics for facial recognition devices. This form of identification is also secured with traditional anti-counterfeit measures such as using special inks, use of holograms, and other physical characteristics.

In the future, usage of smart cards and passports can go further with facial recognition, hold currency, and have even greater ease of use in terms of traveler’s convenience such as allowing certain travelers to utilizing “non-threat” or “low-threat” signatures on both their passports and by facial recognition.

Another important technology for US border security is active and passive sensors and surveillance technologies. In the modern internet of things, sensors and surveillance cameras are a norm for border security. They can use full-spectrum analysis to sense when someone is actively trying to enter the country illegally or detect illicit drug smuggling operations. Additionally, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have made a strong introduction to US-Mexico border security. Not only do these machines lack human endurance (being machines they need no sleep or food), they have the ability survey through long distances. Today, UAV models such as MQ-9 Reapers are used by the Department of Homeland Security for border protection.

In the future, expect more complete and accurate detection capabilities from UAV and grounded sensors and surveillance machines. Additionally, expect improvements from the U.S. Army’s FUTURE FORCE WARRIOR program to be supplied border patrol agents, which includes advance electronics such as communication devices, GPS, miniaturized sensors, and other network-centric improvements.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about the usage of GIS or Geographical Information Systems such as those used by the NGIA, NOAA, and other imagery intelligence producers. Using sophisticated satellites, the government is able to have real time full spectrum analysis of the border. Whether it’s for humanitarian relief or cracking down on the smuggling of humans or drugs, the satellites will be able to effectively protect our borders with their accuracy and perceptive abilities. In the future, I would expect more coverage, perhaps with volunteers manning lesser or defunct satellite space satellites such as those of the keyhole series. Perhaps through the internet of everything, a persona can do these activities through devices as small as today’s smartphone.

VI. Conclusion

            In conclusion, I have made a thorough investigation about the current political and criminal realities of the US-Mexico border, explained about how the internet of things (and everything) will change every facet of a person’s life, and lastly, certain applications normal citizens and Homeland Security experts can use to help in keeping our borders safe through short-term and long-term activity with the internet of things and further off, the internet of everything. Hopefully through American ingenuity, in the future we’ll be able to solve further problem sets with as much as ease as we have with developing the Internet of Things and its successor, the Internet of Everything.

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