Homeland Security Nuclear Detection Office turns to geospatial routing

Tech will improve threat monitoring and response capabilities across local, state and federal emergency management organizations

The Homeland Security Department’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office is adding geospatial routing technology to its data distribution system to improve threat monitoring and response capabilities across local, state and federal emergency management organizations.

The office is using Solace Systems’ Geospatial Routing Blade, which gives the company’s Solace 3260 message routers the ability to distribute information based on geospatial coordinates contained within the data stream.

The Solace routers will be used in conjunction with strategically placed sensors and applications responsible for recognizing threats and coordinating responses.

The goal is to improve the nation’s ability to protect urban areas and critical infrastructure, said Bob Dilonardo, chief information officer of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.

“Improving situational awareness of potential security threats in major cities is a top priority,” Dilonardo said. Geospatial routing will enable real-time monitoring and information exchange that DHS needs to rapidly and securely coordinate effective responses across all levels of government, he said.

Solace’s content and geospatial routing products are compliant with the Emergency Data Exchange Language, a set of messaging standards based on Extensible Markup Language that enables the sharing of emergency information between government agencies and emergency-related organizations. DHS has adopted the standard.

Solace routers also support other standards such as OASIS’ Common Alerting Protocol, the National Information Exchange Model’s Enterprise Interchange Model and Suspicious Activity Reports, the U.S. Air Force’s Cursor-On-Target and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ incident management standards.

Solace’s Geospatial Routing Blade, unveiled this week, gives Solace message routers the ability to distribute information based on geospatial coordinates contained within the data stream. Multiple coordinate systems are supported and can be represented in the data as points or polygonal areas of interest.

Solace’s approach is unique and can reduce the element of human error, said David Sonnen, senior analyst for geospatial information with IDC. Emergency management personnel would typically load coordinates into a database and then during an event or afterward query the database for information. Here, coordinates can be dropped into a map in a web browser and if a sensor triggers an event, the emergency worker is immediately alerted, he noted.

“It is lighting fast,” Sonnen said.

Sets of sensors stream information in real-time over a TCP/IP network or from a gateway on a non-IP-based network into the Solace router that uses the company’s standard messaging software, said Hans Jespersen, principle systems engineer for Solace Systems.

Then the geospatial blades inspect the contents of the messages, looking specifically for longitude and latitude polygon information such as a tornado warning from the National Weather Service. A polygon, or warning box, represents an area where the maximum threat for an event exists.

To provide emergency workers with nuclear threat monitoring capabilities, Solace has teamed up with Thermo Fisher Scientific, a maker of software sensors for the detection of biological, chemical, explosives and nuclear threats. The aim is to give emergency organizations an automated backbone for processing large volumes of sensor data in real time.

Emergency personnel increasingly need standardized information, grouped for a specific area, said Johnny Long, global integrated solutions product manager for Thermo Fisher Scientific.

“Today it is very important to look at patterns of things going on at the same time,” he said. An event could occur in Los Angeles while at the same time another might crop up in Miami, for example.

Thermo Scientific can tie that real-time information into the Solace routing systems, making it easily available to homeland security departments throughout the country. There may be a bigger event going on, and at that point, they can make assessments on how to respond, Long said.

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