A Single Day Port Shutdown can Mean Billions to Our Economy...Can we Afford it?

Yossi Segal  |

The US Census Bureau and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, through the Department of Commerce, announced today that the goods and services deficit was $41.9 billion in May, up $1.2 billion from $40.7 billion in April, revised. May exports were $188.6 billion, $1.5 billion less than April exports. May imports were $230.5 billion, $0.3 billion less than April imports.

Ports – whether sea or air – are the gateways to domestic and international trade, connecting the United States to the world. Food grown by farmers in Iowa find their way to Japan. Oranges from Florida make their way to Europe, and Japanese cars enter the US. Ports also play a major role in industrial plant location. Many manufacturing and processing industries locate their plants at or near ports to take advantage of low-cost inbound transportation of raw materials and outbound shipments of products. Furthermore, foreign trade zones, located on port property, also provide incentives for value-added manufacturing services and trade. It is no wonder that a closed port can cripple a whole nation.

At the heart of all this is wireless communications that enable daily operation for ports nationwide – whether air or sea. These critical infrastructures that serve as the nation's economic gateway depend on a reliable, strong communications systems. But what happens when regular communications system shuts down? This is one of the major weaknesses in critical infrastructures today. Currently, most critical infrastructures depend on costly satellite-based communications systems. The cost per link can run up to $15,000 per month. Allocating frequencies to satellite services is a complicated process that requires international coordination and planning. This is carried out under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Though a reliable communications platform, satellite based communications – as seen during Hurricane Katrina – often lacks interoperability and mostly provide voice communications only.

Interoperability refers to a property of a product or system, with interfaces that are completely understood, to work with other products or systems, present or future, without any restricted access or implementation. This also includes emergency communications systems that link critical infrastructures to law enforcement and homeland security agencies. These communications systems would allow public agencies to retain connectivity with one another during periods when normal civil communications links are disrupted.

Obviously, when communications infrastructure shuts down, an alternative infrastructure is required. Another option would be using a communications system that does not depend on any communications infrastructure.

Critical-Communications Alternatives and Options

Mobile MESH-based mission-critical-communications ensures that all communications continue, including HD video, data and VoIP, regardless of any existing infrastructure. A Mobile MESH network is a fully connected "Self- managing" and "Self-healing" network in which all units are connected to each other, and could act as a relay to other units in the network. This assures connectivity, even in extremely harsh conditions. With each unit providing redundancy to other units, a failure in one unit will not affect the operation of other units in the network. With greater visibility scope, interoperability and ability to communicate on land, air and sea on-the-move can provide a cost effective alternative solution to today's satellite option. 

Critical infrastructure has received special attention in recent changes to national investment policies with the goal of building capabilities for prevention of attacks that interrupt communications and for effective response and rapid recovery when communications shut downs do occur. This is a first step to assuring that our critical infrastructure are secured and resilient to any emergency or disaster event that may occur.

Ensuring that all communications between all dispatch units is secured and "hack-free" is another step that must be considered. Today, due to the fact that most communications are conducted via radio interference is relatively simple. Some mission-critical-communications companies also provide communications security options that are embedded; others offer integration to 3rd party vendors.

So, as mentioned, critical infrastructure has received special attention lately –let's hope this attention will bring the required changes before any port shuts down unexpectedly.

Yossi Segal is the Co-Founder & VP of Research and Development for Mobilicom

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer



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