Wearable personal computers aid Customs Service

U.S. Customs Service officers on the Arizona-Mexico border needed to access three mainframe databases in checking southbound vehicles for currency and weapons and to verify that the vehicles were not stolen.

U.S. Customs Service officers on the Arizona-Mexico border needed to access three mainframe databases in checking southbound vehicles for currency and weapons and to verify that the vehicles were not stolen.

This became time-consuming as officers had to walk to terminals to do access the Treasury Enforcement Communications System, National Crime Information Center, and National Law Enforcement Telecommunications system. Drivers could escape while the officers were doing it.

The solution was to equip the officers with wearable computers so they could access the databases without going away from the vehicle, says John O`Rielly, mission support director at the ArizonaCustoms Management Center in Tucson, Ariz.

The computers came from Xybernaut Corp. in Fairfax, Va., and are integrated into systems that include supporting software by Sentel Corp. in Alexandria, Va. A pilot project began in April and the initial installations are to be completed this month at the border at Douglas, Ariz., with three systems.

Customs Service officials want two capabilities, O`Rielly says: wireless operation and voice capability, particularly speech recognition. The systems provide a video capability, but he says he hopes that improved software will make it easier for the officers to access them by voice.

In the pilot installation, the officer wears the Xybernaut computer on his belt linked to a head-mounted display and connected to the existing Novell NetWare server through an Aironet wireless local area network. If the pilot project is successful, O`Rielly says it could go elsewhere along the Customs Service`s 301 border crossings, including airports, harbors, and 159 land border crossings, of which 34 are on the Mexican border. - J.R.

For more information about the Sentel systems, contact Kevin Jackson, the company`s program manager, by phone at 703-739-0084, by fax at 703-739-6028, by post at 225 Reinkers Lane, Suite 500, Alexandria, Va. 22314 or on the World Wide Web at http://www.sentel.com

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