Navy deployed COVID-19 tracking app to ships in five weeks

Written by Dave Nyczepir

The Navy deployed a COVID-19 health tracking application to all aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships and command ships within five weeks of the illness of crew members aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt in April 2020.

Defense Digital Service created the Amazon Web Services Impact Level 4 cloud application, but running it remotely on ships required the use of the company’s Snowball data transport solution.

Snowball facilitated the temporary end-to-end deployment of the app at sea in record time, then regularly connected and synced sea temperature and symptom data to the cloud.

“Five weeks to deploy a big enough software system on an American ship is unheard of,” Fernando Cancel, chief architect of the Universal Naval AI Core Environment (UNACORN) project, told Wednesday’s AWS summit. “Normally it takes years to go through all the counters.”

Sailors used the DDS app to self-report their health from hotels or ships, where they were in quarantine, via personal devices or ship computers. UNACORN had exemptions allowing Wi-Fi enabled devices to connect to Snowballs and complete containerized app surveys on ships.

This data was then replicated, synced or resynchronized, from the ships to AWS GovCloud using Niagara Files (NiFi) for ongoing analysis by healthcare professionals and data scientists.

When Navy ships turn, it hampers bandwidth, but UNACORN has lived within its communications bandwidth budget and has managed to send data to the cloud almost continuously with down-to-the-minute repsyncs.

“We also proved to Navy Safety that the only data coming from the ship was the data we wanted to pull and send directly to an endpoint, an S3 bucket at GovCloud,” Cancel said.

The ships never connected to any network for cybersecurity, so instead they used a single Snowball application programming interface to sync with the cloud.

“The browser would only let you do one thing on the Comcast server, which would only let you do one thing in the database, and that database was deleted on S3, which could only return some data to the S3 secure critical transport to the cloud, and it was a cloud endpoint, ”Cancel said. “So at each of these stages, none of these systems or resources could do more than they were supposed to do. “

Sailors couldn’t surf the web using the browser, for example.

Snowballs cost $ 92,000 for eight, and the success of COVID-19 Health Tracking has programs using UNACORN for long-term projects.

With the easing of the pandemic, the uninstalling of the app off ships began in February. The last kit was withdrawn from the USS Ronald Reagan in March.

“We hope the pandemic is not a permanent thing,” Cancel said. “So we had a built-in test plan and we said very specifically that this was a limited time to collect the data. “

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