DHS wants system to help identify suspicious activity

The Homeland Security Department has invited proposals for new software that would take a Candid Camera-like approach to identifying criminal or terrorist activity.

The department's Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency plans to spend $5 million on two projects for automated scene understanding.

Scene understanding technology detects telltale signs of crime or terrorism, thereby reducing the burden on personnel assigned to monitor closed-circuit television cameras and other sensors in such places as airports, seaports, transportation hubs and border crossing points.

HSARPA's Broad Agency Announcement for Automated Scene Understanding Technology is posted online (42-page PDF).

According to the information pamphlet issued with the BAA, HSARPA seeks to exploit advances in scene understanding that the Defense Department has funded as part of its drive for battlespace awareness.

The procurement seeks to develop technologies that will:

  • Help law enforcement officers use an increasing array of sensors, including TV, radar and seismic systems to recognize unusual, criminal or terrorist activity

  • Reduce the cost of security networks at critical infrastructure sites such as bridges and power plants, as well as other likely terrorist targets such as ports, airports and transportation hubs

  • Create one or more commercial monitoring systems using innovative architecture and new algorithms to achieve greatly improved scene understanding technology


HSARPA wants scene understanding systems that can reduce images of thousands of objects, tracks, events and other data to a few items of interest, and alert security workers to the suspicious developments. The technology agency has specified that the architecture of the new scene understanding systems must be open, modular, scalable and evolutionary.

DHS' technology agency plans to fund its general ASU project at a level of $3 million this fiscal year.

HSARPA also seeks to reinforce an existing maritime surveillance project with new ASU technology. The Coast Guard already operates a Port and Coastal Surveillance Testbed known as Project Hawkeye in South Florida that integrates data from coastal radars, visual and infrared cameras and vessel identification systems to develop a local common operating picture. HSARPA plans to spend $2 million this year to add ASU technology to the Hawkeye project.

DHS plans to hold a bidders conference in Washington on April 26 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to describe the project. According to an HSARPA notice (1 page PDF), prospective bidders will have to pay $120 to attend the conference.


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