Johns Hopkins Gazette | May 11, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 11, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 34
APL Technology Goes Hollywood

An aerial view of the Kodak Theatre, where the Academy Awards take place, appears in the LA Shield software display, with inspection-related icons and traffic patterns, used to inspect the area during the ceremony.

By Kristi Marren
Applied Physics Laboratory

While the likes of Kate Winslet, Sean Penn and the creators of Slumdog Millionaire walked the red carpet into Oscars lore, APL technology was working behind the scenes to make sure that security and safety accompanied glitz and glamour at this year's Academy Awards.

The Feb. 22 ceremony in Los Angeles provided a unique opportunity to test a follow-on project to the APL-developed Critical Infrastructure Inspection Management System, or CIIMS. LA Shield expands the computer-based tool's aerial inspection capability to include ground inspections of buildings, bridges, dams and power plants, making it especially useful during special events.

Running on a notebook-sized computer loaded with enhanced CIIMS software, LA Shield provides the Los Angeles Police Department with images, geographic coordinates and inspection- related information to assess the security of infrastructures.

"It was the first time the software had been used for a special event of this significance," said Mark Gabriele, CIIMS/LA Shield project manager within APL's National Security Technology Department. "Since LAPD established its own wireless node for enhanced communications during the awards, we were able to communicate with LA Shield computers while in the air. This allowed us to change metrics and inspection priorities, and synchronize data during patrols with the database in the command center. Everything worked exactly as it was designed."

APL's willingness to adapt the technology to the police department's needs and provide technical guidance was key to this effort's success, Gabriele said. "When we began working with the LAPD last summer, we determined what they needed the software displays to look like and what information and/or forms they needed for inspections. By creating an electronic version of one of their vulnerability assessment forms, we replaced about 25 pieces of paper [that] officers formerly used during inspections."

Software engineers Jeff Brush and Matt Smith from APL's Applied Information Sciences Department provided technical support before and during the Academy Awards.

During pretest checkouts, they consulted with aviation crews to verify the accuracy of maps loaded into the software, confirm that the system was ready for use and coached LAPD officer Mike Barz on how to load metrics, forms, visuals and GPS coordinates into the LA Shield database, enabling him to monitor the event's final aerial security patrols on his own.

During the awards, Brush, technical lead for the CIIMS/LA Shield project, was assigned to the command post and Smith to the patrol aircraft. Brush said that the feedback from LAPD's aviation and critical infrastructure inspection teams was very positive.

APL is modifying the technology for patrol cars and for GPS-enabled hand-held devices — including compact computers, PDAs and cell phones — so that Los Angeles firefighters can efficiently disseminate data to emergency management personnel when assessing damage after catastrophic events such as earthquakes. "This modification should also help us expand the technology to boat and foot patrols," Gabriele said.

The Maryland State Police, which tested the original CIIMS technology in 2007, is also receiving the software upgrades developed through LA Shield.

Since the CIIMS-based software is intended for use as a data collection application for intelligence information, the APL team didn't envision the technology being used for a special event like the Academy Awards. "But it worked extremely well," Gabriele said, "and through this we've learned that the CIIMS technology has the capability to grow."

CIIMS is funded by the Command, Control and Interoperability Division of the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate.


This story appeared previously in APL News.


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