By GCN Staff

DHS offers prize for indoor tracking tech

When firefighters or police enter a building, the rest of their team often has no way to track them. If the building is filled with smoke, the responder himself may not even know where he is.

The difficulty of tracking responders indoors is exacerbated if radio communications are poor or non-existent. And current solutions based on GPS technology don’t work well for indoor tracking because of weak signals and the difficulty of penetrating buildings.

In an effort to crack the problem, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate announced the “Where am I, Where is my Team?” prize for developing personalized, modular and scalable approaches to track first responders indoors.  Submissions should consist of a concept/design for a low cost, robust, real-time indoor tracking capability using current and emerging technologies, sensors and techniques, DHS said.

Ideally, a winning solution will be wearable, and able to self-report real-time x, y, z positioning, according to DHS. Additionally it should be “mission-agnostic,” meaning it could be used by law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical services and/or emergency management.

“Indoor tracking is a critical need for first responders,” said Dr. Robert Griffin, DHS Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology and former firefighter and emergency manager. “When a firefighter runs into a burning building or when law enforcement raids a warehouse, incident commanders need to maintain situational awareness of the locations of team members.”

The total cash prize payout for this competition is $25,000, consisting of a first place award of $20,000 and a second place award of $5,000.

To submit ideas, the public can register at https://www.innocentive.com/ar/challenge/9933726. Winning submissions may be selected for development and operational use. All submissions must be received by April 2, 2015. More information is available in the Federal Register.

Posted on Mar 05, 2015 at 12:40 PM0 comments

NIST funds center to model disaster recovery strategies

NIST funds center to model disaster recovery strategies

After a large storm system rips through a community, a quick response time is essential for saving lives and rebuilding so communities can get back to business.  To help communities improve disaster response and remediation, The National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded a $20 million contract to Colorado State University to create the Community Resilience Center of Excellence.

The center will develop computer tools and virtual models to help local governments decide how best to invest in resources to mitigate the impact of extreme weather on communities and speed recovery. 

NIST-CORE or Community Resilience Modeling Environment, will be a pivotal piece of the center’s capabilities for meeting stated goals.  Using an open-source platform, NIST-CORE will incorporate risk-based decision-making and enable quantitative comparisons of different resilience strategies, NIST said.

The system will provide scientific metrics and decision tools that communities will use to evaluate the resilience of a built environment and its interconnected infrastructure. The models will also integrate social systems that are essential to recovering communities in various sectors, such as health care delivery, education, social services and financial institutions.

“The tools developed by the center will help to further advance the important goal of disaster resilience from ambitious concepts to cost-effective solutions that communities can implement over time,” said Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May.

NIST-CORE will eventually be capable of performing analysis unlike any other disaster-resilience model in the world – learning from one analysis to the next.  As it continues to be applied, NIST-CORE’s performance will be tested alongside data from previous disasters. 

Posted on Mar 04, 2015 at 1:50 PM0 comments

CBP expands mobile passport app

CBP expands mobile passport app

Last August, the Customs and Border Patrol introduced a mobile iOS application that streamlined the entry of qualified individuals into the United States by allowing them to submit passport information electronically prior to inspection.  

CPB’s Mobile Passport Control app is now expanding to include Android devices and will also be available to travelers at the Miami International Airport. 

When Mobile Passport Control first launched, it was used solely at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  Due to the success of the mobile application, CBP expects expand to an additional 20 airports by 2016. 

Developed by Airports Council International-North America in concert with Airside Mobile and CBP, Mobile Passport Control allows travelers to create a profile, submit a declaration form and get an electronic receipt that they can show to agents at the airport, along with their passports. Travelers using the app experience more rapid service and less wait times, CPB said.

Posted on Mar 03, 2015 at 11:56 AM0 comments

superfish spyware

Lenovo CTO: Superfish spyware confined to consumer notebooks

While the Superfish VisualDiscovery spyware found on some Lenovo PCs has damaged the company’s reputation, enterprise customers have been assured the adware was confined to consumer market notebooks.

Superfish adware intercepts users’ web traffic to provide targeted advertisements. It also installs a non-unique trusted root certification authority (CA) certificate, allowing an attacker to spoof HTTPS traffic, which US-CERT calls “a classic man-in-the-middle attack.” 

In an open letter from Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius, he wrote that, “this issue was limited to our consumer notebooks and in no way impacted our ThinkPads; any tablets, desktops or smartphones; or any enterprise server or storage device.”

The company has also released an automated removal tool so customers could remove Superfish and related files. Additionally, Microsoft, McAfee and Symantec updated their software to automatically disable and remove this software.

Nevertheless, US-CERT says the systems that came with the software already installed will continue to be vulnerable until corrective actions have been taken. Instructions on detecting and eliminating Superfish are available from US-CERT.

Posted on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:21 AM1 comments

USDA cultivates open data

The burgeoning open data movement has taken hold in federal agencies as well as state and local governments.  Open data increases citizens’ confidence in government and fosters innovation and economic growth. Additionally, open data can improve agency operations as data is available in a central location.

In the last year, the Department of Agriculture has published over 800 data sets on usda.gov/data and data.gov, according to a recent agency announcement.  

In addition, USDA said it is engaging other stakeholders so it can use that feedback to improve future data submissions. In the last year USDA participated in the Safety Data Palooza and held Open Data Executive Seminars and the Open Data 500 Roundtable.

The Safety Data Palooza was co-hosted with the Department of Transportation to highlight innovations using open data from developers in the private, non-profit and academic sectors.  Various IT professionals from USDA lead policymakers during Open Data Executive Seminars providing briefings on open and big data. 

Lastly, the Open Data 500 Roundtable promoted the use of data to combat climate change.  The roundtable examined various ways data can address the risk climate change poses to the food supply as well as how data can help produce “food resilience” among the farming and food producing industry.    

USDA will continue to promote open data in 2015, outlining five goals: 

  • Document and institutionalize data publishing.
  • Development of interagency partnerships that can provide greater value for innovators and small business startups.
  • Improve the quality of USDA data sets.
  • Work with AgGateway, a group of non-profit businesses that aim to enhance and expand e-business in agriculture, to build on standards and definitions.
  • Identify who is using USDA open data sets in order to better tailor services to those users.

Posted on Feb 23, 2015 at 10:15 AM0 comments