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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 10:01 AM CDT

Mobile Biometrics at Sea

Navy's successful use of multi-modal jump kits for search and seizure points to future
Cross Match's Multi-Modal Jump Kit
© Quantum 3D
Cross Match's Multi-Modal Jump Kit includes as its core a Thermite 1000 Tactical Visual Computer.
Thermite PC
© Quantum 3D
Prior to the use of a ruggedized Thermite PC, the Navy's Jump Kits required a laptop computer and a hard pelican case.
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By John Wagner, Quantum3D

For years, the Navy's Vessel Boarding Search and Seizure (VBSS) squads have been tasked with boarding, searching, and evaluating the content and crew of ships at sea. These Expanded Maritime Interception Operations (EMIO) are carried out around the world—and each mission brings with it prospective harm. The EMIO teams must separate friend from foe, fisherman from terrorist. So, as you might imagine, gathering correct information is critical.

To help, the Navy began collecting objective and biometric data when boarding each vessel. In addition to taking photographs and recording latitude and longitude information, the Navy began gathering fingerprints. Then, through the use of databases and GPS technology, the Navy could store and access this data, comparing it to past searches to make a determination regarding the status of the occupants of a particular vessel.

Just more than two years ago, the Navy approached Cross Match Technologies (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) to solve the mobile biometrics problem. The obvious need was to gather and have access to this information onboard the other ship, so as to avoid having to bring outside personnel on the Navy vessel or carry large amounts of equipment. Cross Match paired a touch screen and other components, along with a ruggedized Thermite Tactical Visual Computer, to create a Multi-Modal Jump Kit that would enable EMIO team members to board ships, gather photographs and fingerprints, store that data, and access remote databases.

The Technology

Traditionally, Navy EMIO teams and similar operations were accomplished by using a computer that was contained in a static pelican case, and subsequently, by leveraging a laptop computer. While this latter solution helped to solve the portability issue, laptops still have a number of drawbacks with respect to size and performance. Leveraging the Thermite 1000 as the Jump Kit's processor delivered a smaller, lighter form factor, further increasing portability. The ruggedized enclosure of the Thermite PC was a must for the harsh sea environment.

While reduction of size and weight are continuing needs for on-ship applications, it is testing of the ruggedized enclosure design that showed the most promise. Because of sea spray, accidental drops, and occasional immersion into water, the Navy's requirement for these EMIO missions was for a processor that could be used during any weather.

The TL is the most diminutive sibling in a broad family of ultra-rugged, conduction-cooled Thermite computers for man-wearable or embedded applications. The family affords developers the advantages of X86 (PC) compatibility, and COTS operating systems without incurring high power consumption, or appreciable weight, heat or audibility. The sealed chassis is impervious to dust and moisture, and can be immersed to one meter, making it ideal for the roughest assignments.

Because it was designed to function underwater for half an hour, the Thermite TL computer easily withstood salt water and sea spray tests; encased in a MIL-STD enclosure, it also withstood drops without performance hiccups. Cross Match leveraged these characteristics—in addition to the ruggedized connectors that are also designed to withstand the elements—to design a system for the Navy that no longer is subject to the environment. The Jump Kits enable real-time processing of photo and biometric data regardless of the environmental conditions.

The Thermite family ranges from Thermite TL on the low-end up through the TVC-3.0 model 1000, founded on Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and fast NVIDIA G73GLM graphics. Family options include video capture, video output, RS-232 and RS-422 serial (asynch and synchronous), extra Ethernet ports, Wifi, GPS support, varied voltage ranges, and MIL-STD-1553 bus support.

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