Newswise — Whether it is tractor-trailer rigs at our land crossings or any of the 11 million containers coming into our seaports every year, the challenge for Customs Officers is to quickly examine their contents with mission focus.

Customs officers are the front line of enforcing lawful and secure trade, screening for illegal contraband and dangerous goods.

However, at times, the screening demand can overload the Customs and Border Protection workforce. Compounding that issue, are the different systems with disparate logistical issues and personnel challenges to place officers where they are needed the most.

To resolve this issue, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is partnering with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s Office of Field Operations to develop a universal user interface called Common Viewer System.

A project out of S&T’s Borders and Maritime Division, part of the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, the goal for the Common Viewer System is to allow Customs Officers the ability to view X-ray images from multiple locations. This is critical to being able to ensure the lawful and speedy pace of trade.

“For our officers to stay up with the increasing demand and volumes at our Ports of Entry, we must leverage technology to increase our efficiency,” said Robert Watt, Director of the Office of Field Operations.

“The Common Viewer System would increase analysts’ effectiveness and overall efficiency while significantly reducing training time and costs,” explained David Taylor, S&T’s Port of Entry Security Program Manager. 

CBP could also modify their staffing model using this technology by concentrating analysts at a few locations. Once in use, the Common Viewer System could be networked with all U.S. Ports of Entry for air, land, and sea. For example, if a single port has six disparate non-intrusive inspection systems in use, all X-ray images could be sent to a single location on site or remote for operational analysis. In addition, the images would now be on a common platform and viewable by another analyst at another location for image comparison and training.

“The Common Viewer System will allow us to significantly increase our efficiency and its networked capability will allow us to spread our human resources over all our Ports of Entry. Officers spending more time on examining cargo means more contraband seizures,” said Director Watt. 

This new system should allow CBP to standardize a defined interface for all their analysis systems and provide it to all current and new vendors so that new systems can become faster operationally.

“This system will help improve CBP’s ability to look at dangerous cargo that is a threat to the United States and improve their operational effectiveness to connect different ports of entry or even different terminals within one port,” Taylor said.

S&T plans to demonstrate the Common Viewer prototype system at Port of Savannah in 2018.