Big Game Day
THE MICHIGAN NATIONAL Guard tried out a new hazardous detection system at Ford Field in Detroit before the Super Bowl. The technology was used to identify and immediately communicate the appearance of suspected hazardous materials to all networked security personnel. The system provided a new means to monitor existing detection equipment and to communicate any findings quickly.
Members of the Michigan National Guard were equipped with small computers with sensing devices that connectted to a wireless network. If they found suspicious material, the mobile computers would relay a message, including location, through the network to a Web portal. All designated security personnel received the data immediately and could respond instantly. The sensors were connected to the computer with a GPS device, which communicated the location of sensors and the soldier automatically to the rest of the team. It provided a map of soldiers’ locations, and indicator lights on the computer screen changed from green to red if any unusual readings occurred.
“The soldiers had instant situational awareness and could focus more on the mission,” says Jeffrey Ricker, CEO of Distributed Instruments, Sterling Heights, Mich., supplier of the software and servers that enabled the sensor fusion system to integrate all data in real-time. “Around 12 units were deployed. Everyone passed through metal detectors and was monitored for chemical and radiation hazards.”
The system also allowed the soldiers to be more mobile, Ricker adds. “In past years, security personnel have walked around Super Bowls and reported in regularly by radio,” Ricker says.
Distributed Instruments developed “sensor data fusion technology” in an open-standard, plug-and-play architecture that scales to millions of networked sensors. The technique involves multiple sensors providing individual data sets, which are then processed into a single merged set of data. Distributed Instruments’ software and servers enable sensors that are in fixed positions, on vehicles and/or part of hand-held computers to monitor perimeters, groups of people and areas as large as national borders. The data points are transmitted wirelessly through a network to stationary or mobile command centers for real-time decisions and action. Distributed Instruments currently works under a contract with the U.S. Army National Automotive Center.
Michigan National Guard has an established relationship with TARDEC (U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center), which developed the system, to help field-test items under development for military or Homeland security. “The system allowed for remote monitoring of a variety of sensors and communications using a single system,” says Clark D. Hinga, Lt. Col., Michigan Air National Guard Commander, 51st Civil Support Team. “At the present time each sensor or set of sensors must be monitored by a person. This also increases the visibility of any mobile teams, who with current technology must still regularly check equipment readings manually and make regular radio calls to report their location and findings.”
With the new system, one can place multiple types of sensors in remote locations without needing to have a person at each location. “Instead, the readings are monitored from a central location that can be anywhere that we can establish a secure Internet connection,” he adds. “In addition, mobile teams can be lower-profile while conducting their mission because their location, and sensor readings can be automatically tracked and recorded at remote sites.”
This system was designed for military convoy operations or for Homeland security purposes. “It is my understanding that for convoy operations, the sensors tied into the system would be ones that can monitor vehicle status, vehicle location, nuclear biological and chemical detectors as well as provide a less expensive solution for providing vehicle-to-vehicle communications throughout the convoy, regardless of convoy size,” Hinga says. “We agreed to help field test the system, which was then modified to meet our mission requirements.”
TARDEC took several different types of sensors used by the National Guard and analyzed the output signals. Then, they developed small “black boxes” to capture the output from each sensor and translate it into an Internet-based data protocol, as well as capturing GPS signals to convey the sensor’s location. The black box then transmitted the data via secure wireless Internet through a series of self-configuring repeaters to an Internet terminal. There the data was captured and uploaded onto a secure Internet Web site that was remotely monitored from an operations cell several miles away from the event.
Two more tests of the system are planned at an upcoming Homeland security exercise in May and at a NASCAR event in June. “The technologies used for this project were chosen for their low cost, availability, wide applicability to military and civilian uses and for the widely available access to commercial Internet systems in the United States,” Hinga says. “No one wanted to develop a system that would be a single use concept.”
More than 100 federal, state and local agencies were involved in providing security for the Super Bowl. Due to this new sensor fusion technology, the security team has been invited to next year’s Super Bowl in Miami. The Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa National Guard, FBI and Coast Guard were also at the Super Bowl.