Fighting the war on terrorism is occurring on many fronts using many different tactics. Some are obvious, like B-52s bombing Taliban positions in the mountains of Afghanistan. Others are much more subtle, like the ASP-based disease-incident reporting system being set up by Siemens Healthcare Systems to connect all 225 of Pennsylvania’s emergency rooms.
The goal of the system is to enable the state’s health department to spot an outbreak of diseases linked to bio-terrorism weapons such as anthrax or smallpox, John Kijewski, SHS’s vice president of Technology, told ASPnews.
|“ASP technology can facilitate rapid information access, which is key to all kinds of things because the whole issue of terror can be addressed only with a very large exchange of data and information.”
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“If you work in an ER and on a normal day you would see maybe 15 people come in with some form of respiratory distress and one day 30 come in, it might not be enough for you to say ‘Whoa, there’s something going on here’,” he said. “But, if across multiple counties in the area, that was going on simultaneously, someone looking at the big picture would notice that.”
Today, the Health Surveillance Engine is rolled out to only 50 hospitals because of budgetary issues, not the technology. In fact, because it is an ASP solution, it could be rolled out in a matter of months. And it takes even that long only because a local server needs to be installed at each location to collect and send data, said Kijewski. The state’s timetable calls for all 225 hospital ERs to be equipped with the HSE within three years.
Information Is Power
Other ASP technology is being used in some less obvious, but no less important, information-sharing programs designed, like the Siemen’s system, to spot patterns of activity and alert those most in need of that data, said John Lindquist, president of Electronic Warfare Associates’ Information and Infrastructure (EWAII) subsidiary.
EWAII is the custodian of two of the federal government’s anti-terrorism initiatives that began prior to 9/11. In 1998, a presidential directive led to the formation of 13 IFACs — Information Sharing and Analysis Centers — to watch over the nation’s major civilian infrastructures such as transportation, gas and oil, and water.
EWAII handles two of these: ground transportation and water. At the time they were formed, the IFACs decided an ASP model would be the best way to facilitate the sharing of information, which, in the case of the surface transportation IFAC, comes in from subscriber companies in transportation-related industries such as trucking.
Once threat information is collected it is scrubbed of personalizing data that could be used to tie it back the company of origin — a necessary step to get companies wary of government regulation on board, said Lindquist. The information is then analyzed and sent back out in the form of alerts.
“(ASP) technology can facilitate that kind of rapid information access, which is key to all kinds of things because the whole issue of terror can be addressed only with a very large exchange of data and information,” Lindquist told ASPnews. “Our key contribution is the analysis.”
Turf Battles, Security Hamper ASP Adoption
Even though particularly well-suited to the role, it turns out that the ASP model is not being widely employed by federal agencies to fight terror, said Lindquist. Turf-wars and suspicion between the FBI, CIA, the defense department and other data-gathering organizations still hamper the free-flow of information. Security is also an issue not completely addressed by the ASP model and this causes concern as well.
“Depending on where you use it, there can be real security issues,” Lindquist said. “That’s a constant trade off in the information-sharing business. The trick is to balance the need for the information against the need for security.”
This said, however, Citrix spokeswoman, Joanna Bloom, told ASPnews that company is engaged with many “super-secret” government agencies using Citrix’s technology in the war against terrorism. Citing security considerations, Bloom said she could not elaborate further.
Tracking All the Ships at Sea
Even though the government may or may not be using the ASP model, the shipping industry is an example of where ASP technology is helping in the struggle to keep America’s shores safe.
Prior to 9/11, a ship heading for American shores did not have to supply the U.S. Customs Service with its manifest until it reached port. Since 9/11, the Customs Service enacted the Automated Manifest System requiring all freight-forwarders to report all cargo 24-hours prior to a ship sailing from its last foreign port of call.
What this rule basically says is if it is on the ship, Customs has to know about it before the ship sails for the U.S., Larry Antonucci, president and founder of independent software vendor (ISV) and shipping industry ASP Freightek, told ASPnews. ASP technology is ideally suited to enable this type of reporting. Since the rule went into effect, Antonucci said Freightek has seen a increased interest in its ASP offering that addresses this issue.
“What we are able to provide, in being an ASP, is a cost-effective, quick-to-implement solution for a requirement that, because of terrorism, has been enacted by U.S. Customs,” he said. “It helps our business because now it makes our products that much more valuable to the trade because they have to buy into what we’re doing.”
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