The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) hosted a three-day Plugfest event as part of the Maritime Security 2016 East Conference in Norfolk, Virginia, March 21-23, 2016. Plugfest is an interactive, hands-on demonstration of disparate technology solution providers rapidly integrating with a common, open architecture. It also allows innovators to “plug” into an information-sharing environment and showcase their individual capabilities, which may illuminate greater capabilities to be discovered when integrated into the larger operating environment.
As new technologies are developed every second, S&T Through its Border and Maritime Security Division strives to find new technological solutions that can be used to detect and thwart the smuggling of people, drugs, weapons, and other threats into our country.
The open architecture design is the most important aspect of the Plugfest, according to Shawn McDonald, Program Manager for S&T’s Integrated Maritime Domain Enterprise – Coastal Surveillance System and Apex Border Situational Awareness programs
“When HDTV became the standard, you didn’t have to buy a whole new house. You just needed to buy the new TV because the electrical and cable connectors were built to standards,” said McDonald. “We want to purchase technologies knowing that they will seamlessly plug into our existing architecture and framework.”
In order to be on the cutting edge of innovation, S&T aims for the Plugfest to demonstrate capabilities provided by individual solution providers; verify the ability of these solution providers to quickly integrate into an open architecture; receive feedback on the performance of the open architecture design; and, enable solution providers and end users to exchange ideas.
“This process makes it easier to discover new and emerging technology providers, and allows the government to capitalize on the fast-paced commercial Information Technology (IT) industry,” said McDonald.
S&T’s seeks to develop a flexible framework of industry standards that describe how a collection of services connect and exchange information in a dynamic operational environment. The concept is similar to the collection of housing building codes that describe how structural, electrical and plumbing standards define how a home should be assembled. The actual look and feel of the home is completely customizable, tailored to the homebuyers requirements. This loosely coupled system approach provides flexibility while allowing for rapid technology integration. Value-added solutions can then be quickly integrated into operational systems.
The United States has 5,525 miles of border with Canada, 1,989 miles with Mexico and 95,000 miles of shoreline along our maritime borders. The more area to cover, the more technology is required to secure our vastly diverse border environments. But technology can change at a rapid pace and quickly render previous security and situational awareness investments obsolete. Innovators and their participation at Plugfest and similar events are the key to keeping up in this constantly changing technological environment.