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Japan customs pursuing efficiency in crackdowns with AI

  • September 25, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 8:55 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Sept. 25 (Jiji Press)–Japan Customs is pursing efficiency in operations including crackdowns on illicit drugs, gold smuggling and counterfeits by analyzing vast amounts of data, such as images taken at checkpoints, with artificial intelligence.


Making operations at customs more sophisticated has emerged as a new task with the arrival of the novel coronavirus, at a time when Japan Customs is suffering from labor shortages.


Cross-border transactions are increasing for goods ordered via the internet by individuals and companies. The number of import declarations in Japan totaled 46.4 million in 2019, doubling over the six years since 2014.


The government’s Central Customs Laboratory, which supports the use of information technology in customs operations, is developing what would be the world’s first equipment to detect illicit drugs hidden inside the body.


The equipment, called NQR, detects radio waves emitted from substances in stimulant drugs with an antenna that looks like a racket. Once put into practical use, it is expected to take about a minute for the result of an inspection to be displayed on the computer screen.


Currently, drugs hidden inside the body are typically found through X-ray checks at hospitals.


The laboratory has also developed a system to analyze X-ray images of cargo with AI and automatically identify what kind of item is inside. The system is in use on a trial basis from January 2019.


Advanced technology is expected to help customs officials particularly in the age of social distancing amid the coronavirus epidemic.


IT systems are used to monitor suspicious people at customs in locations such as Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, and Tokyo International Airport at Haneda.


Personal effects can now be checked easily at electronic customs declaration gates.


“Our biggest challenge is how to put rapidly advancing technology into practice,” a laboratory official said.


The laboratory also plans to use internet of things, or IoT, technologies to effectively utilize data collected through customs operations.

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