Coastal surveillance benefits from enterprise information sharing

“Because both the USCG and CBP operate in the maritime domain, a clear opportunity exists for more efficient collaboration between the organizations. Where they have mostly relied on their own exclusive information systems, the next level of information sharing will allow them to synchronize resources for planning and response as well as securely share sensor data across their respective networks,” explained Shawn McDonald.

Efficiency is the goal behind “middleware,” a concept that has pervaded the technology world for many years as different entities have sought to link aspects of their operation under a single umbrella. System operators in the past logged into different platforms which would have used different data. This was a “legacy system,” to which a new, integrated system is preferable. The solution is to develop software that “glues” these systems together, allowing operators to access these different types of information without bouncing between different platforms.

IMDE would potentially reduce the amount of man-hours and hardware necessary to connect AMOC with different sensors and database information throughout the nation,” said Hidee Lehnert, Program Manager at AMOC.

IMDE is a single example of middleware seeking to “glue” several items together, only in this case extending across the HSE, legacy system to legacy system. The difficulty with integrating systems is that the systems are unique in and of themselves, so there is often not a one-size-fits all way to combine them. Solutions like IMDE are usually customized case-by-case. But this is seen as more of an opportunity than an obstacle.

“The prospect of unifying data systems between response agencies involves other federal, state, local, tribal, international, public and private partners that share in the coastal security interest. USCG and AMO are just the beginning,” said McDonald.

Data sharing interfaces are a key point of focus, if these systems are to work. Operators from different agencies, at all levels, need a solution that offers repeatable patterns for integrating new sources of information.

AMOC relies on point-to-point and multi-point Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Virtual Routing and Forwarding (VRF) connections for the various sensors it utilizes to date,” said Lehnert, “We plan to utilize IMDE to connect the established system of record to multiple hubs and allow the ingestion of additional sensors for greater domain and situational awareness.”

There is much legwork to be done in transitioning this technology with USCG and AMO. The Coast Guard is still reviewing options to employ IMDE services to enhance their own systems and position themselves to improve information sharing with DHS components and port partners.

“Technology like this is not limited to maritime surveillance, either—Maryland State police are yet another group involved in pilot studies of this product, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. IMDE can provide benefits to both air and land domains as well,” S&T says. “Unifying technologies is a tremendous starting point on the way to a complete unity of effort between DHS S&T and its partners in the greater HSE.”