Whether on Land or Sea, It's All About the Data

June 2016
Daniel Ruiz
Daniel Ruiz

Thousands of ships move through our nation's harbors every day. Besides carrying cargo, they generate data. But how are all the data collected, processed, and shared? Answering that complex question led to the development of the National Maritime Domain Awareness [MDA] Architecture.

It's a high-impact, high-visibility project that MITRE's Daniel Ruiz has supported for several years.

"It's been a great experience," he says. "We helped our sponsors develop the operational and technical framework they needed. We had old and new technologies, legacy systems, and a lot of data. It was an opportunity to devote myself to a sponsor project that has a positive impact on national security."

Ruiz, who works at the MITRE's Colorado Springs site, is a software engineer. He's contributed to the MDA Architecture plan through the development of the national Maritime Information Sharing Environment, or MISE. Ruiz was part of the MITRE team that created the new MISE framework for unclassified maritime data.

The Right Data at the Right Time

Developing a framework for sharing maritime data across agencies involves a multitude of challenges. The team needed to provide the right information to a variety of authorized users at the right time, and with no technological restrictions. The plan needed to include common data definitions, security attributes, and be internet accessible. It also needed to include a clear policy of what information authorized users would share with each other.

As the operator of multiple federally funded research and development centers, MITRE brought a valuable perspective to the project. "A commercial company would have financial incentives to use certain technologies," Ruiz says. "At MITRE, we focus on developing the best technical solution for the sponsor's needs."

But the framework needed to be realistic as well. "We included a reference implementation guide to show that the technologies we described are usable and can work in real time."

Tracking Ships Across the World

Ruiz also supported another maritime information sharing system—SeaVision—which tracks ships worldwide. While MISE is an information architecture, SeaVision is an active data sharing system. The Department of Transportation (DOT) developed it for tracking domestic and international ship movement.

"DOT has a data feed on ships around the world," Ruiz says. "SeaVision is a visualization of the data in that feed. My work involved utilizing cloud technologies to help design a database architecture that is fast, reliable, and scalable for SeaVision 2.0."

The data from SeaVision feeds into the Maritime Safety and Security Information System. It's an international system that includes data from more than 70 countries' ships. They all carry Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) equipment and send back mountains of data. AIS is a monitoring system for identifying and tracking vessels.

Big Data in Healthcare

Ruiz often applies his experience working with vast amounts of data to other areas. "I helped with a project where the government was identifying some of the most important big data challenges in healthcare. How are the healthcare sector and the government using big data?"

He outlined his work in a technical paper, Federal Big Data Summit: Summary and Way Forward, co-authored with Tom Sudar of the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center. Some of the challenges in healthcare big data include data encryption, data security, sharing healthcare data across domains, and healthcare analytics.

Opportunities Abound

Since much of his work is in maritime systems, Ruiz has enjoyed the many trips he's made to coastal locales to meet with sponsors. "I've gone to Florida, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., California, Hawaii, and Maryland. I've found that if you like to travel, you can definitely get on projects that require it. It's part of that great MITRE corporate culture. You have flexibility in changing work assignments based on your interests."

He adds, "Work-life balance, being able to work from home, and being surrounded by smart people—these are all real benefits of MITRE."

—by Kay M. Upham

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