Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently announced a “Design-Build Structure” “presolicitation” in advance of its intent to issue a formal “solicitation … for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico” to cover the currently more than 1,250 unsecured miles of the US border.
Previous projects like the ill-fated SBInet virtual fence commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2006 were scrapped after they failed to meet minimum objectives both in area coverage and with substantial cost overruns after $1 billion was spent covering only 59 miles of the 2,000 mile US-Mexico border. However, new industrial wireless and sensor technologies, fueled by the industrial internet of things (IoT), are now capable of meeting the coverage, latency and security needs that could not be attained by technologies used for previous defense projects.
Today, next generation wireless technology is available for wide area data communications including state-of-the-art virtual fence applications. These industrial wireless and sensor technologies are now capable of meeting previously unattainable standards.
“While there is a push to quickly establish a physical wall, the concept of a digital border is being considered despite previous failed projects. Two of the primary concerns are cost and completion, as these have been issues on former projects like the failed SBInet virtual fence in 2011. However, new communications technology from established Silicon Valley companies is making it possible to establish a network across the 2,000 mile border within 12 months and for a fraction of the cost at $10,000 per mile,” said Full Spectrum Inc. CEO Stewart Kantor.
Given new IoT and cyber security demands, working with Silicon Valley companies with their latest network innovations could make the $20 million in existing border funds work without burdening taxpayers, Kantor added.
Full Spectrum said its “software defined radio (SDR) technology for private wireless data networks enhances cybersecurity, provides expanded network coverage and enables faster data communications all at a fraction of the cost of previous network deployment projects. The company estimates that its wireless base station technology can create coverage along the entire US-Mexico border for less than $10,000 per mile, which is roughly one-tenth of one percent of the $12.5 million per mile estimate for the physical wall. Simultaneously, it estimates that the technology could be deployed and operating within 12 months of project authorization.”
This and other similar Silicon Valley technologies would effectively provide an additional layer of security before, during and after physical border completion. In addition, Full Spectrum said its “remote radios could be installed virtually anywhere within a 30-mile range of the border to create a secure, internet of things for digital security devices including drones, video cameras, thermal imaging devices and low cost sensor networks."
“The renewed discussion related to border security has significantly increased the market opportunity for our technology, one that is capable of establishing a virtual digital fence at a fraction of the cost of previous wireless technologies,” Kantor said. “Full Spectrum’s technology is designed to provide the wide area ubiquitous coverage needed for various security applications while providing a high level of efficiency and interconnectivity.”
Kantor told Homeland Security Today that, “DHS and CBP are under significant time pressure to meet the administration’srequirements for the construction of a new, physical border wall with enhanced digital monitoring. Given the sense of urgency, there is little time for them to explore new and more efficient options from non-standard sales channels. This may lead the government down the same old path of relying on the standard contractor channels they have always relied upon. While DHS and CBP may have well-established relationships with these companies, this makes them vulnerable to repeating previous technological failures similar with the digital border/SBInet project, which was scrapped in 2011 with significant cost overruns.”
Continuing, Kantor said, “There continues to be a disconnect between Washington, DC and Silicon Valley in terms of technological collaboration, leaving DC in the dark about innovative, field-tested, commercial technologies that are available from tech companies and start-ups. For example, while we at Full Spectrum offer a digital border network solution that fits well within the budget of $20 million in funds already available for the project, the US government is unaware of our technology. Unless that DC-Silicon Valley connection is made, many of these government agencies will continue to use contractors with high-cost, legacy technologies that result in increased cost for taxpayers due to the lack of access companies like ours have to their channels.”
Kantor told Homeland Security Today that, “Instead of relying on the traditional network of suppliers and contractors, which have led to failures in the past, DHS should take the time to explore commercial-off-the-shelf systems from non-standard sales channels. With our software defined radio technology, we have presented a low-cost digital border security option that is far more advanced than previous virtual fence efforts for only a fraction of the cost of previous virtual fence efforts.”
Kantor said he “expects that the new demands for homeland security will help foster new relationships between the federal government and Silicon Valley technology companies.”