This morning DHS S&T will unveil its first technology certified under the SECURE program: a rugged, inexpensive, and terrorist-proof camera system.
An airplane's black box is an invaluable tool for post-crash investigations. Now that same concept will be available for buses, subway cars, and trains, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T).
This morning in Long Island, New York, S&T will unveil its first successful technology developed and certified as part of the department's public-private acquisition model known as SECURE, or System Efficacy through Commercialization, Utilization, Relevance and Evaluation .
The Blast Resistant Autonomous Video Equipment (BRAVE) camera, developed by Visual Defence USA, Inc. , is a rugged, inexpensive terrorist-proof camera system that can withstand a suicide bombing and give forensic investigators images of what exactly occurred if a bomb explodes on a crowded subway car. According to BRAVE's Operational Requirements Document (ORD), which spells out exactly what DHS wants, the ability to gather forensic evidence to aid terrorism investigations is the main reason why the department wanted the private sector to build the camera system.
"[M]ass transit vehicles and networks represent a potentially attractive target to terrorists and a unique challenge for law enforcement and transit personnel, due to their relative openness and large user base," the ORD (.pdf) explains . "Recent attacks in London, Madrid, and elsewhere around the world have demonstrated the devastating impacts of attacks carried out on mass transit vehicles. The investigation of the July 2005 attacks in London also demonstrated the forensic power of employing video surveillance data to successfully identify the terrorists directly and indirectly involved in such an attack."
During the camera system's testing, Visual Defence beat out another company bidding for the SECURE stamp-of-approval when their inexpensive forensic cameras and the memory chips inside them survived a diesel fire reaching 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit and then rapid cooling when testers snuffed out the fire with water. During the first round of testing, both company prototypes mounted inside a city bus survived an explosion , mimicking a suicide bombing, that ripped the vehicle apart. (Watch the video here .)
(View more photos of the test below )
Although the ORD concentrates on terrorism-related applications, S&T Spokesman John Verrico also notes the camera system could provide forensic video for all types of situations, from crashes to crimes not involving terrorism.
But BRAVE's success is more important because it validates SECURE. According to Verrico, certifying BRAVE demonstrates that the SECURE acquisition model will help DHS acquire and deploy cutting-edge homeland security technology with little or no taxpayer money.
Future technologies developed and certified should cost U.S. taxpayers nothing, although some exceptions could arise, Verrico told Security Management. BRAVE was one such circumstance. While the forensic camera system did cost taxpayers around $100,000, there were special circumstances, says Verrico.Typically, companies will have to pay for third-party testing of their technologies under SECURE to receive certification, but because the testing in this case involved blowing up a city bus, DHS picked up the tab.
What makes the SECURE program different from the normal request-for-proposal process companies undergo is the department's attention to detail. According to Verrico, the SECURE program's ORDs posted on its Web site provide companies with precise requirements to follow as well as give companies a conservative estimate on how many units they can expect to sell.
What DHS S&T discovered, according to Verrico, was that many companies spend more money researching what technologies to build than they spend on research and development once they identify a demand they can fill. The SECURE program is a way to eliminate such guesswork. In exchange for this information, companies use their own money to research and develop technologies that fulfill the ORD.
"It's a very cool way of doing business," said Verrico.
Currently 83 companies are interested in partnering with DHS under the SECURE program, with the next technology certified likely to be a mobile water purification system for use after a natural disaster or terrorist attack.
♦ Photos of the BRAVE camera system courtesy of DHS S&T and Visual Defence USA, Inc.