The benefits of deploying LiDAR and IoT technologies …to reduce crimes and protect national assets

We are living in very challenging times as we strive to achieve economic liberation as a country. The economic problems in the neighbouring border countries have forced some migrants into our country. This mixed multitude of people have created problems for the average naturally calm, reserved, peace-loving Ghanaian. The question is, who allowed these folks into the country? Can these unbridled migrations be checked?  Definitely, yes!

There are many benefits when it comes to migration. Especially when it comes to skilled migrants. However, the unskilled migrant or economic migrants pose a lot of trouble wherever they go. Currently, in Ghana, most of the violent crimes are carried out by foreigners (Dacosta, 2019). In an article written by Osae, entitled ‘Ghana’s porous borders fingered as the cause of crimes by foreigners’, he outlined some essentials things that are needed to check the influx of these unwelcome migrants (2019).

How effective are our Border Controls?

How do we check Ghana’s porous borders? The answer is simple! We must ensure that our borders are effectively controlled. These controls are measures needed to be taken by our immigration authorities to ensure our borders are regulated to check the movement of people, animals, and goods.  To achieve this goal, our border police must be properly resourced. Resourcing means an individual immigration officer must be fully resourced in terms of equipment and logistics. Secondly, specialised training is also needed. Lastly, the application of modern technology is very crucial. The Immigration service, with inadequate resources over the years, has managed the situation; but it could have been worse.

Border Security Control is a Tough Challenge

Border Security Control is a tough and challenging business, because it has to deal with managing the traffic of goods, people and animals. A lot of tact and high skills are needed to meet the challenges of these daunting tasks. Border control encompasses all the avenues by which we travel, which is through the air, land and the waters. Therefore, a comprehensive security solution that covers the entire spectrum needs to be addressed properly.

Leveraging on IoT for border controls 

When Kevin Ashton coined the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ to describe a system whereby the Internet is connected to the physical objects around us by using ubiquitous sensors, it was a very good defining moment. The Internet of Things created an enabling platform that could allow us to achieve a form of SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) in a cheaper way; so, using a single onboard computer, engineers could control things by connecting the little devices in any given physical space and monitor them using smartphones or handheld devices (Rayes & Salam, 2019).

Technologies to help in controlling our geographical boundary Border-Post controls

In the past, erection of physical structures like fences and physical walls was useful to check the influx of people. This means of checking is outmoded. Instead of building physical structures we can use modern technologies in conjunction with IoT devices. LiDAR Technology, which is the technology used in the autonomous vehicle technologies, can be used to control geographical space better that physical walls, fences and even regular patrols.

What is Lidar technology and its principle of operation?

Many years ago, I learned from one of my old professors – after an electromagnetism lecture on Maxwell’s equations – that we could use light to travel. I did not understand the whole idea, so he simply stated: “When the world understands light wave theory, instant transportation will be achieved”.  The LiDAR is offering instant accurate information in its usage. The LiDAR is the acronym for Light Detection and Ranging which is better than the old paradigm of RADAR (Radio wave Detection and Ranging).

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RADAR technology uses radio waves, which has a lot of drawbacks. Basically, a LiDAR unit is made up of a laser, detector, optics and rotating mechanism, timing electronics, an onboard computer system, a GPS and initial measurement unit system. The principle of operation for a LiDAR works like the traditional Radar systems. However, instead of radio waves, the LiDAR uses light-waves generated by a laser unit. The LiDAR system, upon detecting an object, calculates how long it takes for the light to reach the object or surface and bounce back to the scanner. The detected distance is then calculated using the speed of light, which is approximately 299,792,458 metres per second.

The formula for calculating returning light photons from an object

This is the technology currently deployed at the India and Pakistan border to check the incidence of terrorism (Expresscomputer, 2019). The LiDAR technology is capable of night and day detection, and it is useable irrespective of weather conditions. The system can detect and track intruders and reveal their geographical bearings. Using this technology in tandem with ML and AI technologies, it offers our national gatekeepers a lot of advantages.

The degree of precise data collection and its speed are among the key features of LiDAR technology which make it more preferable to RADAR technology. Another key feature of the LiDAR is its ability to build an exact 3D monochromatic image of an object. This offers a better option than the RADAR, which gives only a symbolic representation of detected objects. This feature allows data analysts to use the heat maps and footfalls for predictive recon operations.

Typical Control Operations of the LiDAR

There many ways to use a LiDAR device to collect data. However, the three most common ways are: Ground montages, using steel towers; Airborne vehicles; and lastly via Satellite. The latter is very expensive, but very effective when it is intended for long-term surveillance to create a virtual wall – like the one depicted in one of my favourite TV series when I was growing up, The Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord. (McAnally, 1997). To effectively control our borders from the illegal migration of humans and animals, let’s consider the diagram below.

  1. An airborne LiDAR system from the Ground, Airborne or Satellite continuously scans our geographical demarcations.
  2. When the LiDAR picks up an (IM) illegal migrant, or any suspicious object or movements, the information is sent via an IoT enabler into an IoT namespace (because a lot of IoT devices are also connected).
  3. The Information is sent to an AI analytic server to perform the needed analytics on the captured image.
  4. The analysed data by the AI system can be accessed by the strategic command and recon centre. Based on this information, the strategic command centre can deploy an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of LiDAR and video surveillance, as depicted in ❺and also deploy operational patrols vehicle as in ❻; ground well-armed ground personnel can also be dispatched, as in shown in fig ❼. Some of these sensitive and critical infrastructures can be protected and/or the culprits apprehended in the course of their destructive operations.
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The cost-benefit analysis of LiDAR

Although the initial cost could be astronomical, the long-term benefit of LiDAR technology cannot be overemphasised. Apart from helping our national gatekeepers to effectively check the influx of illegal migrants, these systems can create a lot of jobs for our teeming unemployed youth.

A pre-emptive national defence system can be put in place to avert any threat. Electoral violence, which in many cases results in the death of people or leaves on people indelible physical scars, can be eliminated entirely by relying on the aerial surveillance of LiDAR.

3Dlasermapping points to another range of application LiDAR technologies could also be used for: these include agriculture and precision forestry; Civil Engineering and Surveying; Emergency Services; Environmental and Coastal Monitoring; Highways and Road Networks; Mining, Quarries, and Aggregates; Rail Mapping and  Utilities. (2019).

Conclusions

For all who care about the environment, like Greta Turnberg – the Swedish teenager who is currently campaigning against abuse of the environment (The Guardian, 2019) – the use of LiDAR technology will be crucial in curbing the havoc we wreak on our ecology in the name of advancement.

The last time I travelled to the Eastern and Central Regions in 2016, I was really appalled at what illegal mining has done to Pra and the Birim Rivers. The campaign against illegal mining, which is a major contributory factor in the pollution of these river-bodies, has been a success. But for a long-term lasting solution, a pragmatic approach has to be adopted – like use of the LiDAR system.

Foreign vessels invade our waters and deplete our fish stocks. The LiDAR can be used to address issues like the abuse of marine polices by both local and foreign fishing vessels, which affects our local fishing industry. The use of LiDAR can be used to protect our oil installations, but I will not delve deeply into this part.

The indiscriminate felling trees and can be checked by using the LiDAR. This means that every tree could be under the watch of the all-seeing eyes of the LiDAR system. Recently, it was reported in the news that some high-voltage pylons have been destroyed by unidentified individuals.

Bearing the initial cost of the LiDAR system can help our security services to manage our borders, and also manage our sensitive installations.

Building walls and fences is old-fashioned – and, besides, it creates hostility. Building virtual walls using LiDAR is the way to go.  LiDAR deployment is one of the techniques to help curb illegal intrusion at our border points of entry, and also assist early detection of crime and help in reconnaissance planning. The LiDAR can help our institutions save fuel costs and also wear and tear of patrol vehicles, because resources are deployed based on accurate information.

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References

3dlasermapping. (2019, August 11). www.3dlasermapping.com. Retrieved from 3dlasermapping: https://www.3dlasermapping.com/lidar-applications/

Dacosta, K. (2019, July 14). https://allafrica.com/stories/201405210565.html. Retrieved from Allafrica: https://allafrica.com/stories/201405210565.html

Expresscomputer. (2019, July 11). https://www.expresscomputer.in. Retrieved from Expresscomputer: https://www.expresscomputer.in/magazine/how-border-fencing-is-secured-through-iot/24718/

McAnally, D. (Director). (1997). Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord [Motion Picture].

Osae, E. O. (2019, July 19). Ghana’s porous borders fingered as cause of crimes by foreigners. Retrieved from Ghanaweb: https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Ghana-s-porous-borders-fingered-as-cause-of-crimes-by-foreigners-755451

Rayes, A., & Salam, S. (2019). Internet of Things From Hype to Reality: The Road to Digitization. Switerland: Springer International Publishing.

The Guardian. (2019, January 1). https://www.theguardian.com. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/14/greta-thunberg-sets-sail-plymouth-climate-us-trump.

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