Summer Research Institute - 2012

Program Theme: End-user Engagement and Technology Transition 

The 2012 Summer Research Institute built upon prior SRI initiatives and current Center research to advance the innovative capabilities and functionality of existing and evolving tools and technologies for transition to end-users (e.g. USCG). Student projects included hands-on, multi-disciplinary research activities aimed at maximizing the situational awareness, emergency response, and maritime surveillance capabilities of first responders and emergency management personnel.  Student participants were encouraged to develop creative solutions and new maritime security applications, leveraging the Center's tools and technologies.

Students participated in weekly lectures by researchers as well as industry and government homeland security practitioners, to develop an understanding of the maritime domain, the Marine Transportation System, emergency response, maritime system resilience, and the sensor tools and technologies that can be used to enhance maritime situational awareness and surveillance capabilities.

Students were assigned to one of the following project teams: 1.) Port Mapper Tool 2.) Acoustic Sensor Technologies, 3.) HF Radar and 4.) Magello Emergency Response Tool.   Program exercises challenged students to consider alternative uses of visualization, modeling tools for emergency planning purposes and sensor technologies (High-Frequency Radar, Acoustics, Electro-Optics, etc.) for incident analysis and forensic/attribution purposes. 

Student Research Projects and Teams:

The student teams had at their disposal a robust set of research assets including a collection of sensor technologies, access to analysis and visualization tools, plume modeling and simulation tools and unprecedented access to Center researchers and leaders and experts in the field of maritime and homeland security.

Port Mapper Tool Team

The Port Mapper Tool student research team worked to develop port closure scenarios to enhance the eventual modeling and simulation capabilities of MIT?s Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL) Port Mapper tool.  While still in prototype phase, the tool is being designed to assist policy makers in developing response and resiliency plans in the event of port and supply chain disruptions.  The tool will allow end-users to conduct scenario-based analysis on the implications and repercussions of disruptions and closures of US ports.

During the SRI 2012, the Port Mapper Tool team assessed the vulnerabilities of the food and farm supply chain, in the event of a port closure or disruption to the Port of New Orleans and its companion ports in the New Orleans metropolitan area. A scenario was developed in order to show the primary vulnerabilities of this geographical area and how the movement of food and farm cargo would be affected.  The chain of events due to a port closure at the Port of New Orleans would also put into jeopardy the regions three arterial ports, requiring shippers and distributers to reroute the food and farm cargo to other US ports, who have the capacity and relevant facilities to absorb such goods. Intermodal connections and infrastructure are limiting factors in the amount of goods that a port can handle. For a short period of time it is possible that other ports would be able to absorb the volume of the disrupted port, but it is necessary that the affected port be brought back to full capacity as soon as possible or it risks losing revenue and permanent business.

By utilizing a scenario based assessment to a analyze the impacts and complexities of port disruptions to the supply chain flow of goods, the student research team was able to gather detailed information regarding available intermodal connections. This data can be used as critical input in the further development of the Port Mapper Tool, providing end-users with a  better understanding of the impact of disruptions in a port and therefore making resiliency plans based on the tool more effective.

In a unique twist of fate, much of what the students chronicled in their intermodal connection scenario,, came to fruition this summer, when a severe drought in the mid-west crippled the flow of the Mississippi River and limited the throughput of food and farm commodities for export. 

Acoustic Sensor Technologies

Students leveraged the Center's Maritime Security Laboratory (MSL) sensor suite, including AIS, Infrared and Visible Light cameras, acoustic sensors, as well as Rutgers HF Radar to track and classify vessels in the New York Harbor.  

In their investigation into the use of passive acoustic signatures for vessel classification, the students employed a computational approach based on machine-learning algorithms to automatically identify vessel signatures.   The Acoustic Sensor Technologies student team developed a method to extract several key features of passive acoustic signatures, by testing different Machine Learning Algorithms.

Based on their research and assessments, the students found that it was possible to sort vessels according to their demodulated acoustic signature using a variety of machine learning algorithms. In addition, the students found that the algorithms were able to extract and identify generalized acoustic traits from a crowded input signal.

The student's findings indicated that there is significant potential for the successful use of Machine Learning Algorithms in passive acoustic based vessel identification.

Magello Emergency Response Tool

The Magello Emergency Response Tool team was challenged to advance the functionality of the Magello web interface from prototype phase, into an operational, real-time emergency response tool. Much of the Magello team's work, focused on understanding end-user needs and refining the system to accommodate the situational awareness needs and modeling capabilities of the web tool. 

Timothy Higgins, from Drexel University, served as the primary programmer for the Magello website.  He spent numerous hours refining atmospheric and oceanic data feeds, so they could be archived and processed without system delays to the end-user.  He also worked to provide uniformity to the look and feel of Magello, to ensure that the site was easy to navigate and intuitive for emergency responders. 

Through Tim's efforts, he was able to program the site to provide a timeline of data feeds that would provide the end-user with a history of observations, together with real-time observations and model forecasts. 

The Magello team's efforts will be showcased by Dr. Julie Pullen, MSC Director, at a FEMA Region 1 Technology Transition Workshop being held in late September 2012  in Boston, MA.