Contributed by Louis Parks
The Department of Homeland Security announced that they will abandon RFID as their technology of choice in tracking visitors who enter and exit our country. The media headlines followed immediately œRFID fails to make the grade at DHS. On close examination it appears that RFID may be falsely accused.
It was my understanding, from working directly with US VISITS, that the whole I-94 RFID experiment was simply that an experiment and it was never meant to be implemented after the trial. The choice to use the I-94 form was based primarily on the fact that DHS had total ownership of the process and that they could use it to try RFID at a few border crossings to see what the challenges and opportunities in working with this new technology would be.
More important, the attempt to use it to manage or track visitors leaving our country, a serious hole in our current border system, was doomed from the start. As someone who has often traveled to Canada by car I can tell you that without major changes to border operations nothing is going to tell DHS who is leaving and whether they are a citizen or foreigner.
The failure in this case is the lack of a process, which reminded me of the business process re-engineering fad that ran for a few years in the late 90’s. What many of us learned from that experience is that when we were called in to deliver a software solution as part of a re-engineering project we often found there was never any engineering or process there to begin with often dooming the software project to failure. DHS needs to figure out a solid exit process first and then look to see what technologies, like RFID, can be used to automate or increase border efficiencies and security.