The VASCO Concept

The concentrated localization of government buildings and critical infrastructure sites, within or close to dense urban environments, is a source of serious security risks that are hard to anticipate. In recent years, a great variety of threat agents have affected various public buildings: recent examples include attacks on consulates and embassies, violent demonstrations near parliamentary buildings; terrorist attacks on government buildings or educational institutions; and the paralyzing effects of natural disasters on governmental buildings. Protecting these important sites from multiple evolving threats and restoring their functioning after an incident can be extremely challenging in an urban setting. In meeting these challenges, responsible administrators suffer from a lack of undisputed knowledge with regard to the most effective security concepts for protecting these sites.

The security of public offices with critical importance requires an integral approach that combines “hard” perimeter security measures with “soft” people management approaches. To secure a critical building in the face of varying and evolving risks, an interdisciplinary collaboration is needed between different experts from different domains. A common awareness and shared understanding of key threats and challenges is essential to effectively collaborate. Currently, there is no efficient method or tool that allows government administrators and security experts of different stripes to efficiently design, evaluate and implement fitting security concepts in the face of evolving risks. In practice, such collaboration is time-consuming and not based on evidence based approaches.

The VASCO project aims to address these needs with a double objective:

  1. To research, implement and evaluate an innovative system that will enable security professionals to study, assess, and present security concepts and measures, which gives rise to an evidence-based, all-risk approach, for the protection of government buildings of critical importance;
  2. To research and assess security concepts and measures and build a knowledge and best practice database, which captures dynamic and visual reference scenarios that have been created and studied with the VASCO system during the different evaluation phases of the project, and beyond.

To accomplish these aims, the VASCO system will make use of the latest advances of the research in interactive visualisation, simulation, crisis management, and artificial intelligence.

By making it possible for security experts to create, run and manipulate dynamic threat scenarios and apply them to a virtual representation of the building and its surroundings, VASCO will enable experts to experiment with all sorts of counter-measures in a totally risk-free and inexpensive way.For that purpose, the project will address the following needs in order to implement the first system of its kind:

Automatic Indoor Reconstruction

Intuitively and rapidly create the complete 3D layout of the building to protect, including its environment

VASCO will enable users to rapidly and automatedly create a 3D digital model of a building, including interiors, and its environment from series of photographs. This is currently a time-consuming and expensive activity. VASCO will enable the import of additional geospatial, CAD or multimedia data to complement the mock-up.

Natural User Interface

Display a visual representation of the 3D layout and enable its user-friendly manipulation

The VASCO system will provide users with a realistic and interactive visualisation of the DMU. It will allow to explore the building and its immediate environment thus rapidly familiarizing the user with the site in a way that is quicker than it would be if the building was visited in real life and more effective than with paper maps. VASCO will offer a Natural User Interface, based on a set of real objects (e.g. rulers, pencils, erasers) used in conjunction with a multitouch multiuser table, that helps users to intuitively edit the DMU, control simulations, or make annotations and measurements without having to learn a software user interface. Of course, the system will also be usable with a more traditional desktop-PC setting (i.e. mouse + normal screen), even remotely through the internet.

Virtual Security Editor

Create and simulate different event and threat scenarios. Employ security procedures in response to the scenarios

With its serious-game approach and innovative scenario edition concept, VASCO allows users to create custom-made scenarios while they are interacting with the system using a variety of threats (e.g. hostage takings, fire, earthquakes and demonstrations, bomb blasting and architectural damages) and responses. The users will always have full control over the dynamics of the scenario. The simulation tool will assist the user and does not function autonomously, which would lead to the emergence of uncontrollable, undesired and unrealistic scenarios.

Security Knowledge Sharing

Use visual reference scenarios to study and assess new security concepts, which are stored in a knowledge database

The VASCO project will create an extensible knowledge database, accessible through secured Web access. This database will hold a wide variety of security concepts, detailing their effectiveness in multiple scenarios that have been created with the system. In these scenarios, users can manipulate certain security concepts while keeping other features constant, which allows for a controlled assessment of the effectiveness of one strategy over another. It will allow managers to consult the database in search of feasible strategies for security threats, this way they can learn from the experiences of other users. It will encourage users to store scenarios, fictitious and real, together with assessed security concepts into the database. Future users will be able to access the scenario and the concepts, watching with detailed precision how the threat evolved and what was done (or not) to counter it.

An effective tool would offer:
  • a realistic visual representation of the building within its urban environment, combining geographic details (roads, nearby buildings of potential relevance, critical infrastructures) with architectural information (lay-out of the building, exits, windows, garden entrances, roof top access, parking garage etc.). This provides security experts from varying backgrounds with a shared picture of the building and its surroundings, facilitating the joint formulation of an integral approach.
  • capabilities to create dynamic scenarios, allowing security experts to employ their toolbox of virtual security devices (e.g. cameras, sensors) and security personnel in the virtual environment, and to simulate their behaviour and assess their effectiveness. Such a tool would enable experts and administrators to animate events and threats; for instance, they can simulate the effects of a demonstration escalating into a riot, the spreading of a fire in a nearby building, rising flood waters, or the impact of a terrorist attack (bomb or hostage-taking situation). Studying a simulated scenario step by step (a crisis in slow motion) as it unfolds will allow them to assess the effectiveness of potential counter-measures (enhancing preparation for an effective response). By applying different security concepts to the same threat scenario, experts can test and compare their effects. They could never do this in real life, as one cannot subject a building again and again to a variety of threats.