From airports to ocean: Anti-terror patrol randomizing system begins trials in Boston Harbor

Apr 14, 2011

It began with work on randomizing airport security police patrol routines at Los Angeles International Airport while still maintaining the same level of protection. The example spread across the nation, and is now methodically and unpredictably at work in the waters around Boston.

The new PROTECT system schedules the operations of Coast Guard response vessels in a way that make it impossible for observers to predict their activities, while still maintaining the same degree of surveillance.

After months of study, the PROTECT (Port Resilience Operational / Tactical Enforcement to Combat Terrorism) system began a two-month trial around Boston Harbor April 4, 2011.

The motivation, according to a description posted on the website of TEAMCORE, the University of Southern California research group that designed it, is to make best use of limited resources that "prevent full security coverage at all times, which allows adversaries to observe and exploit patterns in selective patrolling or monitoring, e.g., they can plan actions avoiding existing patrols."

PROTECT follows three airport security patrol randomization systems previously developed by TEAMCORE, a unit in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Department of Computer Science directed by Professor Milind Tambe.

All of the three use computer applications of algorithms to create schedules that fulfill the same level of law enforcement presence, but do so in such a way that even the closest observer can't predict when or where an airport patrol team or vehicle -- or in this case, a Coast Guard response vessel -- will show up.

According to Craig Baldwin, a senior analyst for the Coast Guard Research and Development Center, the initial phase of the project began in September 2010, when the USC TEAMCORE group began working with Coast Guard officials to fit the ideas in the system, originally developed for airports, to the demands of patrols by Coast Guard response boats.

"The Coast Guard interest is to improve the deterrence effects of its patrol, by implementing an optimized randomized schedule for its activity," Baldwin said.

The testing involves a force consisting of five to ten response boats, plus one coast guard cutter, deployed in the waters around Boston.

"One measure of our success would be that crews were able to maintain schedules as proscribed," and do so without creating organizational problems," said Baldwin. If the test is a success, he continued, the next step will be to take the model "and further evolve it in other ports."

Baldwin said the experience of development going into testing with Tambe's TEAMCORE group had been highly positive. "It's a pleasure to work with Milind's group, " he said. "They are not only academically astute, but able to understand the mission and fold it into their model."

Tambe was equally pleased by the relationship. "The has given us the opportunity to take our ideas in a new direction, solving problems that are related, but with much different parameters."

Explore further: Japan orders air bag maker to conduct probe

More information: TEAMCORE website: teamcore.usc.edu/projects/security/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Security from chaos

Apr 16, 2008

There’s safety (and security) in numbers … especially when those numbers are random. That’s the lesson learned from a DHS-sponsored research project out of the University of Southern California (USC). ...

Coast Guard gets wind farm power

Jun 22, 2006

Congress has reached an agreement concerning a proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm in Massachusetts, giving the U.S. Coast Guard oversight of the project.

Mariners urged to look out for whales

Oct 01, 2007

The U.S. Coast Guard has warned mariners to take care to avoid hitting whales, after three whales were killed off the California coast.

Recommended for you

ENIAC panels go on display at Oklahoma museum

37 minutes ago

We keep up with history of events through the calendar, marking special days: Amelia Earhart's birthday, the collapse of the Berlin Wall; the assassination of JFK. Another path is through narrative. An eye-catcher ...

BlackBerry courts iPhone users with cash

11 hours ago

Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry is wooing Apple customers with a cash offer for trade-ins of iPhones for its new square-screened, keyboard-equipped Passport.

HP earnings show continued struggle

12 hours ago

Venerable tech giant Hewlett-Packard has been struggling for three years to turn its business around. Its latest earnings show it still has more work ahead.

UN moves to strengthen digital privacy (Update)

12 hours ago

The United Nations on Tuesday adopted a resolution on protecting digital privacy that for the first time urged governments to offer redress to citizens targeted by mass surveillance.

Spotify turns up volume as losses fall

13 hours ago

The world's biggest music streaming service, Spotify, announced Tuesday its revenue grew by 74 percent in 2013 while net losses shrank by one third, in a year of spectacular expansion.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Doug_Huffman
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 14, 2011
More 'societal norm' for TSA to abuse.
See Tom Clancy's story of Crazy Ivans and chuckaluck in 'Red October'. TSA security is street theater's first act.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.