Multi-Agency Situational Awareness System – aka MASAS.  You’ll likely be hearing a fair bit about MASAS from me, so an intro is worthwhile.

What is it? It’s a semi-formalized group that is using existing and new standards to help organizations share information for purposes of situational awareness. By sharing data, both on a day-to-day and in-crisis basis, organizations can improve their level of situational awareness.  The use of standards allows groups to share information by publishing and consuming information.  The standards in MASAS currently include OASIS CAP v1.2, a CAP Canadian Profile (CAP-CP), and GeoRSS with a specific draft profile.

Where did it come from? In the beginning … hold on – need to be a bit more serious here.  Lack of information, which results in poor situational awarenss, has always been the bane of emergency managers.  In 2007 a group of Federal EOCs (Public Safety Canada – PSC, Environment Canada – EC, and the Public Health Agency – PHAC) got together to see if there was a way to share a small amount of information so each group could have a better idea of what the others were doing.  A vendor community (Black Coral Inc., ESRI Canada, AMEC, CAE Professional Service, and Powerscourt) created the GeoInfoeXchange (GIX) project, funded in part by NRCan’s GeoConnections.  GIX proved that sharing information using standards allowed each EOC to use its own systems yet exchange some basic information.  Overall, GIX was a very successful project – but it ended when the contract ran its course.  MASAS was created when some federal groups, particularly GeoConnections, managed to get some more sustainable funding for pushing the technology further.  The first major MASAS project was led by New Brunswick, which created the first MASAS sandbox, allowing multiple provinces and states to share information in a semi-controlled environment.

Who is involved? The key stakeholders are Canadian government groups at all levels, vendors, and international partners.  GeoConnections and DND’s Center for Security Sciences (CSS) are the key agencies providing federated leadership and some funding.  The vendor community is growing, though there are some differences in opinion on the readiness level of the standards and supporting technologies.

Key players in the vendor community include Doug Allport (leads business/marketing efforts), Jacob Westfall (technical), amongst others.

What is it’s state? Currently MASAS is in a state of flux.  There are some key data standards adopted (e.g. OASIS CAP) and there are some very basis systems intended as sandboxes to validate concepts.  Further, these sandboxes can be used by groups to better understand the value of sharing information, which is often a concept that feels strange.

Though these sandboxes allow for sharing of information, they aren’t intended for operational use.  The technology behind them is still in flux and there aren’t any groups that have provided operational funding yet.

Well, that’s a short introduction to some of the background behind MASAS – more details to follow.