By Teri Carnicelli, NSWC PHD Public Affairs
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) has further expanded its presence in the technology transfer arena through its latest Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), this one inked with Camarillo, California-based GBL Systems Corp., a provider of systems engineering and custom software products to the U.S. Armed Forces.
“GBL Systems does a significant amount of work for Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and the Department of Defense Test Resource Management Center and is looking to transition some capabilities to possible naval shipboard applications,” explained Alan Jaeger, NSWC PHD’s Office of Research and Technology Applications manager.
The CRADA agreement includes the evaluation of advanced Augmented Reality (AR) and cyber and biometric authentication technologies and practices at the command’s Fathomwerx Lab during the 2022 Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) and Coastal Trident Port and Maritime Security Program.
Research and development efforts will focus on commercial technologies that could potentially apply to Navy ships and the greater U.S. Navy, and are aligned with NSWC PHD’s In-Service Engineering Agent (ISEA) mission to service, maintain and provide training for naval ship combat systems.
GBL Systems Principal Scientist Michael Soltys said his team is excited to work with the command and formalize what had previously been an “informal” arrangement via Fathomwerx Lab, a public-private partnership on Port of Hueneme property.
“While GBL Systems has worked for decades with Naval Air Systems Command at Point Mugu (in Port Hueneme, California), our collaboration with NSWC PHD is new; we are excited to showcase our solutions and test them for the specific needs of NSWC PHD and the larger afloat Navy.”
This is not the command’s first interaction with Soltys, a professor and chair of Camarillo-based California State University, Channel Island’s department of computer science. He participated in NSWC PHD’s inaugural summer faculty program in June 2020, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research to initiate formal relationships between naval labs and the research experts of their choice.
Soltys, who is also a software engineer, said that GBL Systems and Fathomwerx Lab have been in contact for some time via the Ventura Tech Bridge, “and we are very happy to now have a formal agreement of collaboration.”
Three specific technologies will be explored with the CRADA, including: GBL Systems’ FutureOrb identity management, which offers a framework for biometric authentication with a dual function of physical access control; the company’s Cyber Forensics Integrated Triage Tool (Cyber-FITT), a portable digital forensics device; and content-authoring technology for immersive instruction using AR and Virtual Reality (VR).
These technologies will be collaboratively researched and developed between GBL Systems and NSWC PHD’s principal investigators with the CRADA, and demonstrated during the open house portion of this year’s ANTX/Coastal Trident event.
The command’s principal investigators include: Socrates Frangis, afloat cybersecurity director; Jorge Lacoste, an Engineering and Test Office computer engineer with a strong background in cybersecurity; and Liping Chen, a systems engineer who also last fall received a U.S. patent for a “biometrics authentication for secure access to system,” according to the patent title.
While Chen’s biometric authentication system, which includes a device for capturing and processing wrist-vein images, will not be incorporated in this initial phase of the CRADA, it could be a part of a next-phase agreement as the technology is more specifically adapted to Navy needs, Chen said.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the enhanced security and capability of warfighters,” she added.
Chen, who is the co-chair of the Navy Augmented Reality Consortium, will also work with GBL Systems on potentially adapting its existing AR and VR training technologies to support the warfighter.
“At GBL Systems, we have a lot of AR/VR technology ready to be deployed,” Soltys said. “We will be working with (the command) on authoring content of relevance to the Navy.”
Frangis said his team is most interested in the Cyber-FITT technology and how it could potentially be adapted for Navy use.
Cyber-FITT is a handheld, field-ready digital forensics triage tool designed for on-site assessment of digital storage devices, such as computer hard drives or digital memory cards, that are subject to being searched or investigated.
“It is initially intended for mobile devices where law enforcement could quickly, in the field, assess a suspect device and perform initial forensic analysis following a cyber incident,” Frangis said. “While this use case is more specific to state and local law enforcement, we see potential for Navy applications as mobile devices and mission application become more commonplace.”
Frangis added that as an ISEA, the command’s role in cyber incident response is to augment the Navy Cyber Defense Operations Center, supporting the fleet in isolation of the system, collection of forensics artifacts and recovery of the system to a normal operational state.
During the ANTX/Coastal Trident open house, NSWC PHD cybersecurity team members will observe existing Cyber-FITT capabilities and limitations and provide recommendations for how the technology could be matured to support the command’s role with afloat Navy control system cyber incident response, particularly in the forensics artifact collection phase, Frangis said.
A team from GBL Systems will demonstrate the three technology products at the ANTX/Coastal Trident open house event scheduled for the week of Sept. 12. Soltys said the FutureOrb demonstration will be used to admit registered attendees to the event; those who choose not to participate in the facial-recognition scan can be checked in manually.
For Cyber-FITT, GBL Systems will be able to provide use case examples from a pilot program tested during execution of search warrants issued from the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office as well as results gathered when used by the county’s High Technology Task Force digital forensics lab members.
“An application of Cyber-FITT could be port security, if digital media on vessels needs to be searched efficiently,” Soltys said.
Chen said she is working with GBL Systems to help find use case examples for the AR/VR training technologies that will incorporate custom headsets and automated authoring methods for Sailor technical assistance and training.
“We are establishing a drumbeat to meet regularly for tracking the progress and tasks in preparation of the open house demonstration,” she said.
Brendan Applegate, lead for fleet experimentation and exercises with the command’s Office of Technology, also serves as the lead coordinator for the annual ANTX/Coastal Trident, which typically takes place from April through September and features a variety of operations-based exercises, technical demonstrations and field experiments.
“ANTX will be leveraged as a demonstration venue to increase awareness and access to these and other developing technologies among Navy and partner organizations,” he said. “Use cases and novel applications will become a focus for discussion as well as provide high-value opportunities for transition and implementation.
“Fathomwerx and ANTX activities are designed to give us a good, quick look with a minimal investment on the parts of both the government and the developers.”
The concept of technology transfer, often referred to as T2, is often the purpose of agreements like the CRADA as well as Work with Private Party Agreements (WWPP), Patent/Software License Agreements (PLA/SLA), Education Partnership Agreements (EPA), and Partnership Intermediary Agreements (PIA).