USC Smart Fence Recognizes Bad Airport Neighbors
Smart Fence, a perimeter-protection system created by a team from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, soon will be implemented at a Florida airport, with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also weighing further installations.
The smart-sensor system recognizes spatio-temporal sensor patterns of perimeter intrusion “by foot, by fence and by vehicle for the purpose of protecting remote fenced or virtual perimeters against unauthorized access or terrorist attack on TSA airport property,” according to Alireza Dibazar, research assistant professor of computational neural engineering and co-director of the USC Laboratory for Neural Dynamics.
The USC Viterbi engineering team led by Dibazar presented the idea to global science and technology leaders at the IEEE International Conference on Technologies for Homeland Security in November.
Their paper “Intelligent Acoustic and Vibration Recognition/Alert Systems for Security Breaching Detection, Close Proximity Danger Identification and Perimeter Protection” took home best prize.
The system’s novel approach allows target intrusion sounds to be identified by users with specific needs. For example, at airports, the sensors were trained to ignore typical fence manipulation – kicking, leaning and shaking – by visitors who gather at end-of-runway fence lines to watch landings and takeoffs.
However, the system actively raises alerts if the fence is climbed or if someone attempts to breach the perimeter.
In turn, the ground sensors ignore the presence of large jets, but raise alerts for human footsteps in unauthorized areas and can be programmed to either raise alerts or simply to report the presence of vehicles in certain protected areas.
Dibazar also noted that “all the sensors direct video cameras to the origin of the intrusion event for threat identification.”
The biologically inspired system builds on previous implementations of computational neuroscience created by team member Theodore W. Berger, director of the USC Laboratory for Neural Dynamics and holder of the David Packard Chair in Engineering at USC Viterbi. Berger also is a professor in the school’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.
In 2003, Berger used his research in neural processing of information to create SENTRI™, a smart-sensor detection system that recognizes the sound of a gunshot and discriminates gunshots from firecrackers, car backfires and other similar noises.
SENTRI™ is installed on light poles in urban environments and, like the Smart Fence sensors, sends localization data to nearby surveillance cameras to capture the origin of the sound. The system, marketed by Tucson, Ariz.-based Safety Dynamics, currently is used by police departments in several cities to reduce crime.
Smart Fence initially was tested in the desert near the U.S. Army’s Twentynine Palms testing grounds and then demonstrated for Naval Command at the Panama City-Bay County International Airport in Panama City, Fla., in conjunction with the Naval Surface Warfare Center of Panama City. The Transportation Security Administration uses the airport as proving grounds for systems to be installed at the first post 9/11 airport construction in the United States.
Dibazar summarized system performance as “showing a perfect [100 percent] identification of unexpected intrusion events, and an average of less than two false positives per week and zero false negatives for recognition of human footsteps.” In addition, neither false positives nor false negatives were reported by the installed fence sensors for a duration of 45 days of unattended operation, which included several days of seasonal storms.
Another round of tests is scheduled to begin in late February. “We are going to install the technology at the new Panama City airport for the purpose of obtaining approval and certification by Naval technology assurance officers to sell the system to the [Transportation Security Administration],” Dibazar said.
The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio also are looking into the technology.
Research for this project was generated from Small Business Innovative Research grants from the Office of Naval Research in 2006. When the Transportation Security Administration sponsored a Navy-led initiative to develop new technologies for “intelligent” airport perimeters in 2009, the detection of the sounds and vibrations associated with security breach created by the USC lab was an excellent match.
A number of laboratories, including the USC Neural Dynamics facility, responded to the Navy’s calls for advanced technological systems, but prototype testing in 2007 was very convincing and led to the selection of the USC system in 2010 for accelerated development. Research funding came from the Office of Naval Research commercialization pilot program.
In addition to Berger and Dibazar, the Smart Fence team includes research associates Ali Yousefi, Hyung O. Park, Bing Lu, Hisham Quresh and former postdoctoral student Sageev George, as well as Steven Berger, manager of Army- and Navy-sponsored projects.