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Lab News -- October 24, 2008

October 24 , 2008

LabNews 10/24/2008PDF (1 Mb)

Sandia sensor technology may help save wild horses

By Chris Burroughs

Sensor technology developed at Sandia for national security purposes may soon play a role in saving wild horses.

Two Labs researchers, Casey Giron (5433) and Josh Jacob (2623), are working with National Forest Service rangers in the Jicarilla Wild Horse Territory to come up with ways to better detect the location of the animals in order to trap and relocate them. The territory falls in an area of the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico located near the Colorado border.

“The wild horses are overpopulating this territory far above the appropriate management level,” says Anthony Madrid, wild horse and burro coordinator and ranger for the Carson National Forest. “Mt. Taylor Mustangs [a Forest Service contractor that rounds up wild horses] asked Sandia to help with a sensor technology that will make it easier to know when the horses are in a trapping corral.”

The request came through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program — the Labs-run program that allows Sandia to apply a portion of the gross receipts taxes it pays each year to provide technical advice and assistance to New Mexico small businesses.

More than 425 wild horses roam the Jicarilla Wild Horse Territory, an area Forest Service officials determined in an assessment four years ago could only accommodate between 50 and 105 of the animals. Grass and foliage that serve as feed for the horses and other wild animals are running thin, say Forest Service officials, and concerns exist that there may not be adequate grazing areas. Right now, the horses appear healthy, but that could change if food sources disappear.

The Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service routinely round up wild horses in overpopulated areas, relocate them to central holding areas, and attempt to adopt them out. This fall the Carson National Forest initiated a wild horse gather program and plans to round up 93 horses. Horses from the Jicarilla territory go to Farmington, where they are put up for adoption.

Roundup a tedious process

Horse roundup is a tedious process. Once horses are known to be in a certain area, a corral is built, and bait — salt and minerals — is set out. Later, hay is added as a further enticement. The trapper, a contractor with Mt.

Taylor Mustangs, then sits in wait inside a trailer located 50 to 100 yards away from the corral. A video camera connected to a monitor in the trailer tracks horse visitors. When the trapper sees the horses inside the pen on the monitor, he pushes a button to remotely close the gate.

The limitation of this method, says Madrid, is that sometimes the horses sense the human. This makes them shy away from the corral.

It became Casey and Josh’s job to come up with a way the trapper can be in a camp several miles away from the corral, still be able to watch the horses, and then remotely close the gate.

“We knew the system had to be cost effective. Otherwise the National Forest Service could not afford to deploy it,” Casey says. “We knew that developing a new sensor system from the ground up would cost way too much. So we decided to adapt something already developed here at Sandia or modify an off-the-shelf product.”

Seismic sensor detects horses

The two researchers had working experience with a system designed a couple of years ago at Sandia for national security purposes. About the size of a shoebox, each waterproof plastic container holds a radio transmitter, electronics processor, and externally connected seismic sensors. Casey and Josh are also adding the capability for a thermo-imaging video camera. A photovoltaic solar panel would charge the batteries, making the unit self-sufficient.

The system is designed for the seismic sensors to detect when an animal the size of a horse is in the vicinity. Once alerted by the sensors to the presence of an animal, the camera turns on and sends an image via the radio transmitter to the trapper who might be in a small camper as far as five miles away.

The trapper would monitor the camera and as soon as he sees several horses in the corral, he would shut the gate from his remote location. Shortly after, he would herd the animals into a horse trailer — a difficult process in itself — and take them to a holding pen.

“What’s really nice about this system is that the trapper can simultaneously monitor multiple sites, which could be separated by miles. Right now the trapper must sit in wait for several days, sometimes weeks, waiting for the right moment to close the gate. The conditions in which they wait can be quite extreme because they cannot use any heat, air-conditioning, or anything that would alert the horses to their presence. Allowing the trapper to move to a remote location relieves the stress from both the trapper and the horses,” Casey says.

As a second option, Casey and Josh are also looking at modifying commercially available off-the-shelf systems. They are finalizing their recommendations and plan to deliver them to the National Forest Service soon.

“We anticipate the technology Sandia will recommend will be a huge help to us,” Madrid says. “Having the ability to monitor multiple traps at the same time will make our work much more efficient and productive.” -- Chris Burroughs

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Indoor sensor siting analysis maximizes effectiveness of chem/bio detectors

By Patti Koning

There is no question that facilities where large numbers of people congregate, such as transit centers, shopping malls, and office buildings, are potential targets for chemical and biological attacks. Deploying chemical and biological detectors is a key line of defense in preventing and mitigating such attacks.

For many years, Sandia has worked with BioWatch, other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) programs, and other government agencies to determine the optimum sensor architecture, or sensor siting, for facilities throughout the nation.

Sensor siting is something we all practice when we install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in our homes. Common sense tells us to install these detectors where fires are likely to occur — in the kitchen — and where we’re most vulnerable to being surprised by a fire — in our bedrooms.

Detecting chemical and biological attacks in large facilities is much more complex. To answer this need, Sandia draws upon years of systems analysis work and the robust capabilities of the Facilities Weapons of Mass Destruction Decision Analysis Center (FacDAC).

“One of the challenges is figuring out what makes a good sensor architecture. We put a lot of effort into ways of measuring performance of architectures to figure out the appropriate metrics,” says Nate Gleason (8125), manager of the advanced systems deployment group. “Detecting the smallest possible release size is not always the right goal. For BioWatch we developed a metric that looks at how many people a release will impact and then designed the system to detect all the releases of a set level of impact, which can be very different in release size.”

The program focuses on three components of an end-to-end approach to facilities protection: countermeasures evaluation, system requirements, and system architecture design. Nate explains that detection must be tied to an action that will mitigate the situation. For example, can the detection system trigger an action that will save lives, such as evacuation?

An inherent problem with real-time sensors is false alarms, so any evaluation of response actions must take this into account. “Given that a sensor has a particular false alarm rate, what action is it possible to take on that sensor alarm? Evacuation wouldn’t be the first action with a real-time sensor” because of that false alarm rate, explains Nate. “So we might consider changing or shutting off airflow or zone isolation.”

Another aspect is the architecture of a sensor system — what types of sensors are deployed, and in what configurations and locations. For example, a system might consist of a large number of inexpensive sensors scattered throughout a facility combined with a few strategically placed, high-capability sensors. An alarm by the inexpensive sensors would trigger the high-capability sensors, thus reducing the likelihood of a false alarm.

There are myriad external factors that must be considered in sensor siting — the number of people in a building, where they are congregated, the weather, when the air filters were last changed, even if a door has been propped open. Coming up with an architecture requires analysis of millions of possible scenarios.

Nate says that tracer testing in Grand Central Terminal early in the program illustrated to the researchers how significant the outside weather can be. A drop in external air temperature of about 15 F caused the air flow through the station to reverse itself from summer to fall.

In a test in another major transportation facility, the airflow was moving in the opposite direction that it should have been, in accordance with the building’s design. The culprit? An employee had propped open a single door in the building.

“It’s easy to design a system that works in one building for a single attack. The goal is to design something that works all the time — that can handle any scenario on any given day,” says Luke Purvis (8114), who now leads the sensor siting program. “Our approach makes our recommendations robust across different building states and attack scenarios.”

To provide this in-depth analysis, Sandia draws upon years of experience in chemical and biological terrorism modeling and systems analysis, beginning with the Program for Response Options & Technology Enhancements for Chemical/Biological Terrorism (PROTECT) in 1997 and continuing with the Protective and Responsive Options for Airport Counter-Terrorism (PROACT) program in 2003.

Five years ago, PROACT began with a model of a boarding concourse of San Francisco International Airport and a simulation of how a single detector would behave in one situation. That capability has evolved to where it is today — the ability to model an entire facility with multiple detector configurations and scenarios.

“How we think about detection and response has really changed,” says Nate. “We’ve gone from detection as the primary goal to targeting the biggest impact release in which detection and immediate response can save the most lives.”

Sandia has sited BioWatch collectors in 15 facilities, some of which are active and operating, and helped develop requirements for the Bioagent Autonomous Networked Detector (BAND) detection system, which is being developed to replace the current BioWatch detectors. Sandia is also siting chemical detectors for a number of unique chemical agents.

Looking forward, Nate says that the biggest challenge is developing metrics. “This is where we are taking advantage of the full FacDAC capability, using moving population models and incorporating actual responses. We’re looking beyond ‘can a detector detect’ and at the value it provides for the goal of saving lives.”

He adds that another goal is to simplify the process, so the analysis doesn’t necessarily have to be conducted by Sandia scientists. “One day we’d like to have a tool that we can hand to a facility engineer to help them protect their building. If chemical or biological detection becomes as ubiquitous as smoke detectors, clearly Sandia can’t site everything.” — Patti Koning

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Sandia works with city to assess ways to protect Albuquerque youth from cyber predators

By Michael Padilla

A Sandia report assessing ways to help protect Albuquerque children and teens from cyber predators was recently provided to the city as requested by Mayor Martin Chavez.

The assessment, “Keeping Albuquerque’s Children Safe from Cyber Predators,” was conducted by Sandia’s Center for Cyber Defenders program.

Tim McDonald, manager of Information Assurance Systems Dept. 5637, says the CCD evaluated programs nationwide and provided recommendations for the City of Albuquerque based on established criteria.

“Any successful cyber defender program must be based on community, school, and parental involvement,” says Tim. “It’s important that parents are proactive in determining what their children are viewing, not only on their computers but also on their cell phones and other communication devices.”

Existing programs in other major US cities were reviewed and a behavior-based cyber predator threat model was produced to help assess and determine which existing programs best address these problems.

Recommendations were given on informational website development, comprehensive interactive programs to inform children, and complementary parental information programs.

The primary findings in the assessment indicate that the most effective cyber predator awareness programs include an informational website containing links to other resources. The assessment found that California, North Carolina, Michigan, and Arizona are the highest-ranked states in the assessment, and should thus serve as good models. In addition, the report mentions that control and monitoring tools, informative handouts, and training or seminar sessions were the primary criteria differentiating high- and low-ranked programs.

Mayor Chavez thanked Sandia for preparing the report at a recent news conference.

“One of the most disturbing crimes against our youth is cyber stalking,” Chavez said. “Recently, a USA Today story revealed that nationwide there are more than 600,000 unique computers trafficking child pornography over the Internet.”

Chavez announced a partnership with the Albuquerque Police Department, Sandia, and Albuquerque Public Schools to combat cyber stalking. A town hall meeting is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Don Newton Community Center in Taylor Ranch. Topics for the meeting will include an in-depth discussion of cyber stalking, cyber stalking of children and young adults, how to report cyber crime, how to protect against cyber stalking, and what to do if you are a victim.

Sandia Labs Director Tom Hunter was instrumental in discussing the project with the mayor.

The report (SAND 2008-5561) was prepared by Felycia Aranda, Raquel Hernandez, Erin Duggan, and Andrea Walker.

Michael Padilla

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