New Center of Excellence Focuses on Borders, Trade and Immigration Research

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) created the Centers of Excellence (COEs) to develop multidisciplinary, customer-driven, homeland security science and technology solutions and help train the next generation of homeland security experts.

 The University of Houston recently was awarded the Center for Borders, Trade, and Immigration Research (CBTIR). The goal of the CBTIR is to develop technology-based tools, techniques and educational programs for border management, immigration, trade facilitation and targeting and enforcement of transnational borders. The CBTIR was established with a $3.4 million grant and will include researchers from 10 universities and a San Antonio-based consulting firm. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) is one of the 10 universities contributing their expertise in border research for the center.

Research Scientist and Regional Manager for Latin America Juan Villa is leading the TTI research team, which also includes Director of External Initiatives Melissa Tooley and Associate Research Engineer Rajat Rajbhandari. The objective of the team is to develop an enhanced border wait time measuring system at land ports of entry.

TTI, with funding from the Federal Highway Administration and the Texas Department of Transportation, has previously developed and implemented a radio frequency identification and Bluetooth technology-based wait time measuring systems for commercial and passenger vehicles, respectively.

As technologies become more pervasive and more functional, there is a need to enhance the systems developed by TTI to take advantage of emerging technologies such as connected vehicle, WiFi and GPS,” said Villa. “The current systems also need to be enhanced by adding new capabilities, such as queue prediction, and provide information to other simulation projects that are proposed under the CBTIR.”

During this one-year project, the research team will create a concept of operations document that lays the foundation necessary to design an enhanced wait time system. A preliminary test of the technologies will be performed at TTI’s Proving Ground Research Facility Riverside Campus.

“Our vision is to be the nation’s leading research center in this area, through innovation in technology, data-driven approaches to informed policy and mission-focused individualized education,” said Ioannis A. Kakadiaris, director of the Center and Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen University Professor of computer science at UH. “It will give us the opportunity to mobilize the nation’s intellectual capital to solve real-world problems.”

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