Technology Fills Homeland-Security Gaps

As federal and state agencies struggle to slay the multi-headed terrorism threat, they gain increasingly powerful support from electronic devices and technologies.

Shortly after September 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was taxed with protecting the United States from any terrorist threat. Due to the immensity of this task, it is no surprise that the DHS has had to withstand some controversy and criticism. Just recently, for example, a New York Times article reported that problems could easily arise from the department's means of securing ports ("Loopholes Seen in U.S. Efforts to Secure Ports," May 25, 2005). Ports have often been cited as this country's most vulnerable point. To diminish this risk, the DHS decided to certify certain foreign ports and importers so that it could reduce inspections of their cargo. It could then use its resources to focus on unknown cargo. Unfortunately, however, the DHS seems to have failed to follow up on whether the "certified" ports and importers actually tightened security. Nor did it make sure that many containers were inspected overseas before being sent out to the US.

Most often, such shortcomings are a result of limited resources. In this case, there are simply not enough agents to examine the plethora of shipping containers that arrive in the US each day. Thankfully, numerous RF and microwave engineering companies are working to overcome such personnel weaknesses with technology. Many of these companies have their heritage in defense and the military. Their expertise in communications, intelligence, and surveillance is now being bestowed upon the homeland-security market.

In the example of ports, for instance, BAE Systems (Burlington, MA) recently received a US Coast Guard contract to build the SeeCoast Port and Coastal Scene Awareness Prototype and Demonstration System. As part of the DHS's Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) Automated Scene Understanding program, this program is valued at roughly $3.3 million. The goal of the SeeCoast system is to provide machine understanding of the coastal- and port-security scene. The system will integrate radar track data, video-image systems, positioning information from an Automatic Identification System (AIS), and other data inputs. In doing so, it will enhance vessel detection, evaluation, and tracking to aid tactical analysis and—if necessary—intercept decisions. During the first 12 months of the contract, SeeCoast will be installed in the DHS Hawkeye testbed at the Portsmouth, VA and Miami Coast Guard Sector command centers.

Another research and development haven is the Integrated Deepwater System (IDS). This multi-year, multi-billion-dollar program is tasked with modernizing and replacing the Coast Guard's older ships and aircraft. It also aims to improve both the command and control and logistics systems. Not surprisingly, Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman already have a part in IDS via their joint venture, Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS). Yet opportunities remain for other companies. Last month, ICGS announced that it is seeking suppliers that may have new technologies and product capabilities that support the US Coast Guard's IDS program. Specific areas of interest include command, control, communications, computing, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. ICGS also is looking for integrated logistics support, a systems engineering and integration team, and both aviation and surface solutions.

Such port- and ocean-related projects will only increase as the DHS makes more funds available. Last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced $140,857,128 in port-security grants. This funding was allocated to raise the level of protection against potential threats from small craft, underwater attacks, and vehicle-borne improvised explosives. It also vows to enhance explosive-detection capabilities aboard vehicle ferries and associated facilities. In April, the DHS awarded $17.1 million to the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey and the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach and Seattle/Tacoma. These funds, which were awarded under the third phase of Operation Safe Commerce, will be used to strengthen the security of container cargo moving through these large load centers.

Of course, cargo is moved on trailers and trains as well. The DHS is therefore funding projects in these areas as well as the general transportation industry. Some of the solutions being implemented for land-transported cargo are satellite-based, RF-identification (RFID) tracking solutions. These wireless products, which rely on the Global Positioning System (GPS), have become especially popular in fleet management for trucking companies. For instance, TransCore (Hummelstown, PA) recently unveiled new trailer-tracking sensors.

The company's cargo sensor detects either the absence or presence of cargo. This sensor transmits infrared (IR) light that pulses down the length of the trailer. It scans approximately 2 ft. above the floor from the front of the trailer toward the rear door. From the information gained from these scans, an event trigger will notify fleet management when trailers are loaded and ready for pickup or unloaded and set for their next assignment. The company also has released a temperature sensor. That sensor monitors the temperature of a refrigerated truck or even the inner skin of a tanker. When temperature settings are exceeded, high or low temperature settings can be alarmed. Such alarms will be sent by satellite to the fleet operations center.

Clearly, both sensors enhance safety by communicating what they find to the operations center. For homeland-security purposes, their reliance on GPS is essential. TransCore previously acquired the GlobalWave satellite-tracking and GPS technology. This technology allows users to monitor, manage, track, and communicate with remote and mobile assets from a web interface. The GlobalWave network comprises six ground-control stations that provide service to five continents. The network supports more than 40,000 installed mobile terminals worldwide.

As the world was reminded in September of 2001, however, cargo is not the only source of risk. People can be equally dangerous. To this end, Smiths Group plc (London, UK) has been focusing on the detection of weapons and explosives. In February, the company acquired Farran Technology Ltd. (Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland). Farran is developing millimeter-wave technologies for the detection of hidden weapons and explosives. The company is applying its millimeter-wave technology to the electromagnetic radiation that is naturally emitted by all objects. As a result, an image is created that pinpoints if and where a person has metallic, ceramic, or other materials—including plastic explosives. Farran designs millimeter-wave sensors as well as high-performance microwave systems for broadband-wireless and imaging applications. Prototype field trials of its detection technology are expected to begin within the next year.

Last month, Smiths announced that it is adding to its detection division by acquiring ETI Technology, Inc. (Boston, MA). ETI specializes in the detection of harmful biological agents. The company has developed optical sensors that perform initial screening to identify and classify harmful agents.

Harmful agents do not have to be comprised of foreign substances, however. Without the proper security, our own resources could easily be turned against us. To monitor one aspect of this threat, Nethercomm Corp. (Escondido, CA) has come out with a technology that detects, classifies, and locates third-party tampering and damage to natural-gas pipelines. Dubbed Broadband-in-Gas (BiG), it uses ultrawideband (UWB) communications technology to deliver wireless broadband communications through natural-gas pipelines without using an RF carrier for its signal. Data is transmitted using time- and amplitude-modulated pulses that last less than one nanosecond.

Essentially, the company sends high-bandwidth wireless signals into natural-gas pipelines carrying large amounts of data. Changes are analyzed in the data passed through the natural-gas pipeline—especially changes caused by excavation, tampering, or damage. Such variations in the natural-gas-pipeline infrastructure can then be identified and acted upon in real time. The Broadband-in-Gas technology promises to provide the system-integrity monitoring of metallic and non-metallic natural-gas pipelines. It also can pinpoint the excavation of gas pipelines and the precise location of the excavation or disturbance.

Broadband communications are finding many uses in the homeland-security arena. Like the example of Nethercomm's BiG, they are well suited for surveillance and monitoring-type applications. As a result, broadband communications are increasingly being used in locations that are likely targets. The Statue of Liberty, for example, just welcomed the complete installation of a wireless network that supports 24/7 bomb-detection monitoring. Innalogic LLC, an MSGI Security Solutions (New York, NY) company, partnered with Michael Stapleton Associates (New York, NY) for this project. The result is a secure point-to-point broadband connection to transmit object images wirelessly from Liberty Island to MSA's bomb-detection monitoring stations.

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This specially engineered wireless link powers a fully encrypted digital signal. That signal, in turn, creates a private broadband network that is solely dedicated to bomb-detection monitoring. Through this connection, MSA's SmartTech bomb technicians receive images and a voice-over-IP (VoIP) channel from the x-ray machines that screen packages. Images are transmitted in real time to the SmartTech Operations Center, where experts evaluate suspicious parcels and advise on-site security staff in emergency situations.

Outside of such surveillance and monitoring applications, a host of opportunities have emerged in the public-safety arena. In fact, many engineering firms are entering the homeland-security market through this sector. Unfortunately, the stories of the communications failures that took place on September 11, 2001 have turned out to be rather foreseeable. Local, state, and nationwide forces simply did not have interoperable communications systems. More recently, the DHS and many states have made the funds available to correct this problem.

These funds have translated into an opportunity for many different players. For instance, PCTEL Antenna Products Group (Bloomingdale, IL) recently announced the MAXRAD BMEFC49005 elevated-feed, mobile data antenna. This antenna was designed to operate in the 4.9-to-5.0-GHz Public Safety Band. It provides 5 dBi of gain. In addition, it operates both on and off a groundplane without suffering any degradation in VSWR performance. The BMEFC49005 targets installations that require the antenna to be elevated over surrounding objects that could prevent true omnidirectional coverage. Examples include ambulances, police cars, and other public-safety vehicles with rooftop light bars.

First-responder communications problems have even created an opportunity for cable vendors. Last year, Times Microwave Systems (Wallingford, CT), a Smiths Group company, entered the homeland-security market through a customer, Pioneer Energy Products LLC or PEPRO (Oil City, PA). PEPRO has developed the Secure Mobile Communication System (SMCS), which was specifically made to provide emergency communication in life-threatening situations (Fig. 1). This system, which has already been purchased by emergency services in Boston, has attracted the interest of many cities across the country. The system comprises an unguyed, articulated tower that is 30 to 90 ft. high. That tower, which can be raised and lowered hydraulically, promises to meet or exceed TIA-EIA specifications. It can accommodate multiple antennas. Impressively, the SMCS can be deployed in disaster areas by one person in 20 min. or less.

To make itself suitable for varied and harsh terrain, the SMCS-80 boasts a low center of gravity, a high-degree tipover angle, and high ground clearance. Its independent suspension was designed for rough terrain. The system is housed in a shock-mounted enclosure. It boasts RF, EMI, and lightning protection. With the deployment of downriggers, it also can be self-grounded. The SMCS runs on a propane or diesel generator up to 20 kW. It comes in two standard sizes: a 20-ft. trailer with CLP-2 and a tower that is up to 60 ft. tall (14,500 GVW) or a 26-ft. trailer with CLP-4 and a tower that is up to 90-ft. tall (17,000 GVW).

Interestingly, PEPRO ran into a problem when it came to actually implementing the SMCS. It needed a cable system that was strong enough to act as a harness. According to Vic Garmong, President of PEPRO, the company finally found an answer in Times Microwave's braided cable (Fig. 2). Times was the only company to offer a woven coaxial-cable assembly capability. To maintain a low profile and organized cable configuration, these cables are woven together using a variety of materials. This approach speeds up the winding and unwinding process while eliminating tangled and unwieldy cables. Such a characteristic is critical to mobile, emergency, and portable cell sites like PEPRO's SMCS, where the cables are unwound and re-wound numerous times.

Although solutions like PEPRO's SMCS can enable communications where none exists, there is still the widespread problem of radio interoperability in existing communications systems. To solve this problem, M/A-COM, Inc. (Lowell, MA) has come out with the voice-over-IP-based NetworkFirst Interoperability Solution. Last month, M/A-COM was awarded a contract to implement this solution for the Denver, CO police department (Fig. 3).

NetworkFirst is an Internet-Protocol-based network solution for public-safety communications interoperability. The solution will tie together disparate radio systems, thereby enabling various Denver-area public-safety agencies to communicate with each other during emergency situations. Unlike patch solutions, NetworkFirst provides "intelligent interoperability" by using talkgroups as the fundamental entity for facilitating interoperability. It provides 256 talkgroup priority levels. Because it uses an IP, packet-switched infrastructure, the solution also offers superior scalability. It can connect two nearby agencies, multiple agencies across an entire state, and more.

The public-safety radios themselves are another hot area for development. Recent growth can be largely attributed to APCO Project 25 (P25). This public-safety technical standard is driving increased growth for land-mobile-radio (LMR) equipment. The standard strictly safeguards interoperability and other compliance requirements as government and public-safety radio users migrate to digital-radio equipment.

Here too, M/A-COM is quite active. In its latest effort, the company is expanding the P25IP line of Project 25 portable and mobile radios to add 800-MHz products to the existing VHF and UHF models. It is introducing 800-MHz P25 trunking to both the P7100IP and M7100IP product lines. Those digital-signal-processor (DSP) -controlled, multi-mode radios are capable of concurrently hosting P25, EDACS, and conventional analog modes operating in clear or encrypted voice.

APCO Project 25-compliant radios also fall under the expertise of RELM Wireless Corp. (West Melbourne, FL). In May, the company received orders from agencies of the US Department of the Interior for BK Radio digital-radio products, which comply with the P25 standard. In addition, RELM has enhanced its BK Radio V Series digital base stations. These base stations also comply with the APCO Project 25 standard for public-safety digital-radio equipment. Now, they offer the added capability to transmit and receive signals via VoIP. Among the other players in this segment is EF Johnson, Inc. (Irving, TX). It just received a whopping $2.9 million order from the Department of Defense (DoD) for Project 25-compliant radios and accessories.

Clearly, this country's homeland-security needs have created a multi-pronged, evolving market. This market shifts constantly according to both the variety of targets and the unimaginable and varied forms of potential attacks. Yet the needs of our first responders and defense agencies remain consistent. They need to be able to respond in real time to threats, intelligence, and attacks. With the help of engineering companies, they are steadily gaining the communications, surveillance, and intelligence support that they need to protect this great nation.

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