Open Source Open Architecture Common Operational Picture enables collaboration


Geocent, L.L.C., (Geocent), created a free and opensource GIS Common Operational Picture, OpenCOP, under a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.


The Challenge

A major problem that faces multi agency response with any disaster is the ability to share geographical information and intelligence (GEOINT).  While agencies have created a common operational picture (COP) for increased situational awareness, many of these solutions are contained within their own private environments.  This has been a reoccurring problem magnified during Hurricane Katrina, the lack of knowledge of surrounding intelligence or the operations performed by other supporting agencies.  This created a vacuum of actionable information for decision makers to provide the correct response at the right time.

The Solution

Geocent developed a free and open source GEOINT solution that provides real-time situational awareness. OpenCOP enables first responders to quickly disseminate mission critical information for display on the vast array of Command and Control ( C2 ) deployed throughout all levels of government through a web based browser. Using industry standards allows OpenCOP to communicate with common geospatial platforms, including Google Earth and ESRI. The resulting service delivers real-time operational intelligence to all key players regardless of their mapping package and allows these disparate systems to exchange information instantaneously. As an example, the Figure below demonstrates how OpenCOP was utilized by the State of Louisiana for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Information collected from the field was captured in WebEOC (Louisiana’s primary emergency management database). The information was transformed into multiple formats to be viewed by all agencies involved in the response regardless of their platform



The Outcome

The result was a near real-time display of oil sightings throughout the affected area. Agencies were able to coordinate and maximize resources through a Unified Effort by having access to identical data being provided by OpenCOP. Near real-time information is Actionable Intelligence, as demonstrated in the Figure below.

As a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) proof of concept, pre-production software was provided to and hosted without charge for Louisiana’s Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (GOHSEP) to use during the Deep Water Horizon spill response.  OpenCOP was used in conjunction with two other GOHSEP applications, WebEOC and Google Earth Enterprise, to create a COP on Virtual Louisiana of the Deep Water Horizon spill.  OpenCOP enabled the sharing of this data with the U.S. Coast Guard, BP, DHS, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

After completion of the DHS SBIR proof of concept, GOHSEP acquired and deployed the production OpenCOP software and has used in support of emergency response for events including Hurricane Isaac and the Assumption parish Sinkhole.  The Navy Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer (NEPLO) Command deployed OpenCOP to support federal and DoD disaster response coordination during Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) events.  Geocent is currently extending OpenCOP for the Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC) to provide the ability to display current ocean weather data, as well as weather forecasts, on a the variety of Command and Control GIS platforms deployed in the fleet.

Notable Accomplishments

  • Agencies are able to retain their current mapping platforms, preserving their initial investments while enabling interoperability with other responding organizations.
  • OpenCOP provides a cost-free addition to existing platforms that enables dynamic real- time GIS data and drives disaster response agencies toward the DHS initiative of information sharing and collaboration (Virtual USA).
  • First responders are able to provide observations and critical events directly to the COP, following the concept of network centric warfare where everyone becomes a sensor providing increased situational awareness.
  • The Department of Homeland Security recognized OpenCOP’s value by granting Geocent the only Small Business Innovative Research award to a Louisiana company since 2004.
  • Used by Louisiana Emergency Management, United States Coast Guard, and BP for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response.
  • Publication: Mission Critical Communications. Disaster Response in the Gulf: A New Data Sharing Platform is Put to the Test. September 2010.