A Wireless tech

Jan. 1, 2004
WRELESS radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is part of a new effort by US Customs and Border Protection to increase security at the nation's

WRELESS radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is part of a new effort by US Customs and Border Protection to increase security at the nation's borders while expediting commercial vehicle traffic.

eGO, is supplied by TransCore, Dallas Texas, and was selected by ITS Services Inc, Springfield, Virginia, the company chosen by Customs to oversee enhanced border protection systems. Customs, now an arm of the new Department of Homeland Security, and ITS Services chose the wireless radio technology as the standard for the ongoing Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program.

When the United States began increased security after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC in 2001, it became obvious that commercial border crossings between the US and Canada and the US and Mexico would require even more diligence — and the use of technological advances such as the eGo system.

FAST is a direct outgrowth of the Smart Border Accords entered into between the United States and Canada and the United States and Mexico in the wake of the terrorist attacks. The program is designed to enhance the security and safety of North America, while also bolstering the economic prosperity of the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Through a $4-million contract, TransCore will deliver more than 170,000 eGo windshield sticker tags and driver identification cards. The company also will install inspection booth reader equipment for more than 99 FAST lanes at 22 border crossings.

The eGo system tags attached to vehicles will allow Customs agents to instantly identify designated low-risk vehicles and drivers. These vehicles, equipped with eGo tags, are expedited through border crossings.

Launched initially with Canada in 2002, Phase I of the FAST program used eGo technology for a successful pilot at six of the busiest US border crossings with Canada: Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Michigan; Bluewater Bridge in Port Huron, Michigan; Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York; Lewiston, New York; Champlain, New York; and Blaine, Washington.

The crossings account for nearly 70 percent of traffic and 80 percent of the trade value flowing between the two countries. FAST was launched with Mexico in September 2003 to extend the system to both borders.

New FAST locations to be operational in 2004 include: Sweetgrass, Montana; Portal and Pembina, North Dakota; Alexandria Bay, New York; Highgate Springs and Derby Lane, Vermont; Otay Mesa and Calexico, California; Nogales, Arizona; and El Paso, Laredo, Hidalgo, and Brownsville, Texas.

To use the FAST system, a truck must be a FAST-approved carrier, hauling goods from a FAST-approved importer, and be operated by a FAST-approved driver. To gain FAST approval, importers, carriers, and drivers complete applications to customs administrations.

Upon FAST approval, carriers are given eGo windshield sticker tags to mount in trucks.

Commercial drivers who pass the application screening are asked to report to an enrollment center for an interview, review of identification and citizenship documents, fingerprinting and digital photography. When approved, they are issued a commercial driver card, which contains both a photo and biographical information.

As a truck approaches a FAST lane at a crossing, a wireless RFID reader recognizes the identification number encoded into both the truck's windshield sticker tag and the driver's identity card, and associates this information with import, carrier, and driver information already submitted to the system electronically. An alert is then sent to the inspection booth, notifying agents that the truck is or is not FAST compliant, whether fees have been paid, and displaying a digital image of the driver along with biographical information. Compliant trucks are signaled to proceed. Non-compliant trucks may be redirected for further inspection.

The eGo windshield sticker tag is a paper-thin, RF-programmable, battery-free tag that operates in the 915 MHz range. The tag has a read range of five meters or 16.4 feet.

The tag has a 1,024-bit memory, capable of reading, writing, and rewriting information or permanently setting individual bytes. It is designed to withstand extreme temperatures, sunlight, humidity, and vibration. The tag can include a tamper-resistant option, and control numbers and markings may be custom color printed on the outside of each tag, such as the US/Canada FAST and US/Mexico FAST logos.