IIT alumnus in US solves traffic woes
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IIT alumnus in US solves traffic woes

IIT Madras Alumnus Sarakki has found a solution for more secure cross-border commerce on US-Mexico border, writes Kanupriya Vashisht.

india Updated: May 19, 2006 20:29 IST

Even as minutemen along the US-Mexico border squint hard through binoculars and US senators squabble over the fate of illegal immigrants, an IIT Madras Alumnus may have found a solution for swifter, more secure cross-border commerce.

The ever-increasing cross-border traffic not only causes excessive congestion and delay, but also poses security problems for Customs and Border Protection agents.

Sarakki, in collaboration with the Government Technology Solutions Inc, Corporation and DB-Net Consultants, has designed a "Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection" program, known as SENTRI, which might help minimise delays and provide a faster border crossing for frequent travellers who pose no risk.

A native of Bangalore, Sarakki is project manager of this multi-million-dollar project and founder of Sarakki Associates.

Frequent low-risk international travellers must first undergo a background check with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Once passed, the driver and his vehicle are pre-enrolled into the program and a transponder is issued.

SENTRI screens both vehicles and travellers.

When registered vehicles with transponders approach the CBP/DHS inspection booths, they trigger retrieval of information about the people authorized to travel in those vehicles.

In addition, inspectors can visually verify identity and check the current status of occupants, then allow or prevent entry.

The program will reduce the average time to cross the US border from approximately two hours to four minutes depending on the demand for crossing at a particular port of entry and colour of the terror alert level.

The United States and Mexico share nearly 2,000 miles of common border. An estimated $300 billion worth of goods flow across the border between the two nations, mostly through the 25 ports of entry.

Sarakki's program, funded by the State Department through the USID, also provides tremendous security benefits, because the system removes the pre-cleared, low-risk traveller from traditional inspection lines, enabling CBP agents to focus on other travellers.

SENTRI has already targeted the six busiest land ports of entry along the US-Mexico border: between Mexicali and Calexico; Tijuana and San Ysidro in San Diego; Nogales and Sonora in Arizona; as well as Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Nuevo Laredo and Laredo and Matamoros and Brownsville, all in Texas.

Two SENTRI systems, one at Mexicali and Calexico port of entry and another expanded system at the Tijuana and San Ysidro port of entry, were officially opened in March.

Design of SENTRI at the other four locations is almost complete and construction is underway at some of these locations.

The proposed SENTRI improvements are a direct result of the 21-point agreement between Mexico and the US, signed by Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox.

The team will also be responsible to expand the program to a total of 16 ports of entry.

Sarakki holds an M Tech from IIT Madras (1982) and an MS degree from Michigan State University (1987), both in Civil Engineering.

He has over 18 years of experience in Intelligent Transportation Systems. In 1994, he founded Sarakki Associates, which today specialises in Smart Border Security, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Real Time System Integration and Information Technology.

A registered professional engineer in California, Sarakki lives in Irvine with his family.

First Published: May 19, 2006 20:29 IST