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WCO Members engage in a Pilot project to test the Unified File Format Development

07 marzo 2019

1 March 2019 witnessed the start of the execution of a Pilot Project to test the development under Phase 2 of the Unified File Format Development Programme.

Since 2016 the World Customs Organization (WCO) is leading an initiative to develop a standard Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) data format, codenamed the Unified File Format (UFF). Once universally deployed, the UFF will significantly facilitate the interoperability of NII equipment provided by different manufacturers, as well as the exchange of images in a unified file format within and between Customs administrations for Customs purposes. The UFF will be instrumental for the development of databases or libraries of images and will assist in training of image analysts.

The UFF initiative is steered by the WCO Technical Experts Group on NII (TEG-NII). The development work is carried out primarily by a UFF Development Team comprising experts from four NII vendors (L3, Nuctech, Rapiscan Systems AS&E and Smiths Detection), supported by the Customs Co-Chairperson of the TEG-NII and the WCO Secretariat.

The UFF Development Programme is being implemented in three phases. Following the successful proof of concept during Phase 1, Phase 2 started in October 2016. The main objectives of Phase 2 are to launch and execute the architecture of the UFF and test and evaluate the Phase 2 architecture.

The development of the UFF 2.0 architecture, as well as the respective UFF converters and viewers, was completed in September 2018. An initial test of the UFF Phase 2 development was done through a pre-pilot with Dutch Customs that was successfully implemented in the period 11 September – 19 October 2018.

Following the Dutch Customs pre-pilot, the UFF development team selected six WCO Member Customs administrations to test the UFF 2.0 architecture and the respective UFF converters and viewers developed by the participating vendors. The six administrations representing four of the WCO regions were selected from a pool of volunteering Members that had earlier expressed their willingness to be part of the UFF 2.0 Pilot.

As of 1 March 2019 Smiths Detection is executing UFF 2.0 testing activities with the Customs administrations of Belgium and Bulgaria and Nuctech will also engage with these two Members. Rapiscan Systems AS&E and L3 are working with the Customs and Border Protection of the United States and the Customs Administration of Colombia. Final arrangements still need to be made with Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia to have the testing done with native images generated by high-energy X-ray systems produced by Rapiscan and Nuctech (for Hong Kong) and by Rapiscan and L3 (for Saudi Arabia).