This article was written by Jessica Legge and appeared in the Times West Virginian on October 13, 2009.
Photo caption: Global Science & Technology Inc. is leading a team to build the Mobile Platform Environmental Data, or MoPED, system. The team includes (from left) software engineer Josh Wise, director of innovations Andres Orrego, GST vice president and general manager Brian Bell, and innovation engineers Shayla Boyce and Dave Linger. Photo by Danny Snyder.
GST to Create Mobile Environmental Data System
Million-dollar project includes work for NOAA
GREENBELT — Through a new project, Global Science & Technology Inc. hopes to turn another concept into commercialization.
GST recently won a large contract to create the Mobile Platform Environmental Data, or MoPED, system. As the prime contractor for this $1 million project, GST will build an observation network for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service. The award was announced Sept. 25.
Brian Bell, vice president and general manager of GST, said several years ago one of the company’s partners — Calmar Telematics — brought to his attention a project that involved monitoring the traffic flows of commercial trucks. Calmar Telematics has had a contract with the state for a highway visualization system, and showed Bell the data that was coming from each of the tractor trailers and being sent to the commercial fleet operations.
Bell noticed that some environmental characteristics were coming off the trucks, and began thinking about the tractor trailers as mobile sensors that could be used to supplement data. Then
GST started working with the National Weather Service, and NOAA decided to put out a competitive request for proposals to look for companies with these capabilities.
“We were fortunate enough to win the contract,” Bell said. “It’s going to be pulling the data off the tractor trailers and actually looking at the environmental parameters of specific data and seeing if we can use that data to further the NWS’ mission of weather prediction and weather forecasting.”
Bell said GST works through partnership and innovation like this, and takes an idea and tries to connect the dots. Calmar Telematics and ManTech International are part of the MoPED team.
“We came up with something that we feel is very viable,” he said.
The team sees the possibility of a commercial offspring of this contract once they demonstrate how the mobile platform data can assist with weather forecasts and predictions. For example, a person could subscribe to a product that would tell them about the weather a few miles ahead.
“We do intend to have a separate parallel commercial development effort from this,” he said. “We’re very clear that it’s a totally separate effort.”
While the government pays for a government system, the MoPED team will be looking at commercial applications on its own.
Bell said the environmental data collections have never been transformed into a system like this for predicting and forecasting the weather.
From NOAA’s perspective, the first part of this project is a nine-month endeavor, but the team believes it can deliver in nine months, he said.
Andres Orrego, director of innovations for GST and technical lead for the MoPED project, explained that the first phase is the evaluation of the significance of mobile weather observations. The team is developing new standards.
“This is actually the first time mobile has been evaluated for this purpose,” he said.
“We’ll use actual mobile data to try to predict weather events.”
Orrego said it’s very important to work on high technology projects with this kind of visibility because young professionals coming out of college need to see that West Virginia is a leader in this work. In terms of weather, the MoPED project is a way to better assess and predict the weather events that drive everyday life for people.
Orrego believes this project will help save lives and millions of dollars.
With this contract award, GST will expand the concept for its new Innovation Laboratory, Bell said. The goal of the lab is to show innovation and partnership, and the MoPED project is a catalyst for something that GST perceives as being much more.
He said GST wants to look at concepts as innovation campaigns and try to give them commercial value. The company will bring partners from out of state as well as those with a presence in West Virginia into the lab to participate in innovation campaigns.
GST hopes to open an office space for the Innovation Lab by the end of the year and is currently trying to find a location, Bell said.
“This is something that we’ve been thinking a lot about,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of past success in taking concepts and commercializing them. I think it’s a great way for our company to grow.
“The MoPED project in concept is very exciting, but it’s one of several innovation campaigns that I hope we launch (in the lab).”
E-mail Jessica Legge at firstname.lastname@example.org.