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Plans to outfit Mexico-U.S. border with sensors scrapped

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The U.S. government's plan to lay sensors across the Mexico-U.S. border has been stopped yet again due to technical flaws.

First reported by Wired, the Customs and Border Protection Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition's (OTIA) original filing in 2011 for the intent to install unattended ground and image sensors (UGS) has now been updated with a cancellation notice.

The business solicitation, submitted by the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection Office, documents the use of UGS to help "track, identify, and classify illegal incursions," therefore saving border agents time and energy.

However, the notification now reads that the unattended ground and imaging sensor technology plan has been cancelled. In addition, "OTIA is not planning to release a solicitation for this specific requirement in the near future."

Why? Wired reports that the reason for the cancellation -- or delay, as it may be -- is that the sensor technology has both bandwidth and frequency issues that haven't yet been ironed out. Jenny Burke, a public affairs officer with CBP, told the publication that they hope to replace over 12,000 current, ageing sensors within the next six to nine months, but will not be able to install new UGS technology quite yet. Burke commented:

"We've determined that we need to resolve issues with saturated radio frequencies, limited bandwidth and system integration with the existing CBP infrastructure."

It may be that further delays in replacing old, damaged sensors means a tougher job for border patrol agents, but there is no point replacing the old system with sensors that do not fix another urgent issue -- that of false alarms. According to a report from the DHS Inspector General, only four percent of alerts (.pdf) are actually caused by illegal entrants, and the rest are false alarms. In addition, last year, a border agent was killed when a false alarm caused two agents to open fire on each other in the dark.

(via Wired)

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— By on February 10, 2013, 11:10 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure