In 2002-2003, I was the Chief Technology Officer for a Boston-based hardware research and development firm, Advanced Wireless Automation (AWA)
. As CTO I was responsible for technical oversight related to the design and implementation of a wireless surveillance product we were bringing to market for Lockheed Martin
, and this particular project was for a group within Lockheed that was a spinoff of their SkunkWorks advanced research and development group which reported directly to the Lockheed CEO and Board of Directors. I held ten percent founder’s shares in AWA, and I hosted all of AWA’s corporate email and related data on my own personal servers and equipment at my datacenter.
Our product was codenamed the RockCam, which was a high speed custom embedded platform for high resolution covert imagery and audio acquisition, enclosed inside of a fake rock. The RockCam was intended to be a wireless Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) platform for critical infrastructure protection initiatives such as nuclear power plant security, oil rig and gas pipeline monitoring, power plant surveillance, etc.
The crux of the RockCam was a high resolution CMOS-based imager coupled via a CPLD to a custom designed mainboard that had an onboard DSP. The CMOS imager was in turn connected to a pinhole C-mount lense, with a high sensitivity PIR sensor that could detect movement in and around the RockCam’s field of view. Each RockCam mainboard was additionally connected to a GPS unit to pinpoint the exact location of each RockCam once deployed, and each RockCam included a 900MHz Spread Spectrum Frequency Hopping Microhard Spectra 910 radio that was used to create a mesh network once each RockCam was deployed in the field. The secret sauce to the RockCam was a heavily encrypted link layer and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) that I developed, in addition to a wavelet compression pump that was ported to the DSP and which sported a 120:1 compression ratio for imagery data with a better signal-to-noise ratio than other competing image compression standards such as PNG or JPEG2K.
In essence, each of these RockCam devices were placed in view of various surveillance targets, and then connected via 900MHz radio links to a main communication hub such as a VSAT terminal or a CDPD-based wireless modem such as a Mobile Wireless Technologies RM1000g, so that images once acquired could be uploaded to a remote datacenter called M2M. From there, intelligence analysts could retrieve and review imagery data from anywhere a RockCam was located at the M2M Network Operations Center, with each captured image or video tagged with the exact geographic coordinates where the images were acquired from. Each RockCam contained other environmental hardware such as temperature and humidity sensors for sampling weather-related data from the area around each RockCam, with eventual planned support for radiation detectors in the event these were deployed in a remote area where radiation rose above a pre-determined threshold. Each RockCam included deep cycle batteries which provided at least three (3) years of operation without recharging in the field; one of the additional options we explored were the use of light pipes mounted in the surface of the RockCam, to redirect sunlight into solar panels mounted inside the internals of the RockCam to keep the batteries charged. The custom mainboard we developed would enter in a deep sleep mode to conserve energy, and would be woken up whenever the PIR sensor was triggered to capture high resolution pictures that were then transmitted via spread spectrum radio link to a central concentrator that was Internet-connected.
The second revision of the RockCam was to include native 802.11x wireless capability, so that PDAs and laptops could connect to the RockCam to download images captured locally. The eventual intended design for the RockCam was a custom ASIC that included all of the RockCam functionality in a single discrete chipset (basically a chip that had an onboard CMOS imager with integrated wireless radio section, wavelet compression pump, and external trigger GPIO for interfacing with GPS units and motion sensing hardware such as PIR sensors).
I worked directly with Lockheed on a process referred to as Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT), which is a form of DoD certification and accreditation where various customer criteria are built into the product to meet or exceed customer requirements from environmental, security, and functionality perspectives. The main key for this project to pass the FAT certification and accreditation process was the link layer encryption requirements, to insure that imagery data if intercepted could not be compromised in the event someone were able to observe the 900MHz spread spectrum traffic between RockCams deployed in the field. From a signals intelligence standpoint, observing the spread spectrum communications between RockCams was a difficult process, due to the Microhard radio signature being beneath the noise floor which made it difficult if not impossible to see the spreading pattern with TSCM equipment such as a spectrum analyzer. Because the Microhard Spectra 910 radios were essentially serial modems, a serial-line discipline used for serial-based Ethernet encapsulation was developed by our R&D team, which gave us the ability to encapsulate Ethernet traffic over serial line data in a similar vein to SLIP or PPP, but with point-to-multipoint mesh networking capabilities so that each RockCam could act as a repeater to relay data from RockCam to RockCam, in a wireless mesh routing type network architecture.
The pictures depicted from this auction show some of the early prototypes from the project; however, it should be noted that none of that hardware will be included in this auction as I had a non-intentionally set fire 🙂 that transpired at my house in the storage area where my prototypes were, that destroyed most if not all of the prototype hardware from the initial project development with Lockheed. Those pictures were taken during the development process at one of Lockheed’s SCIFs located in Northern Virgina, as is evidenced by the yellow caution tape you see on the floor there in the first few pictures. The last picture was one of the sample images generated from a RockCam installed across the street from one of the engineer’s house.
What this auctions contains is this:
The remaining prototype hardware that I have in my possession, including:
1) Microhard Spectra 910 900MHz serial line radio with power supply (this was a prototype 900MHz radio that I believe went on to become the current generation of ZigBee-based XBee radios;
2) A collection of PC104-based enclosures and motherboards, with various interfacing such as serial ports, USB ports, etc;
3) A Mobile Wireless Technologies RM1000g AVS vehicle transponder with WWAN and GPS tracking support;
4) Novate wireless prototyping board;
5) GNU X-Tools cross compilation software;
6) A CD filled with backup materials during several years of the company (the most valuable part of this auction obviously).
Shortly after I finished with the link layer encryption needed to pass FAT with Lockheed and we achieved FAT certification and accreditation from the Department of Defense, I was summarily terminated without cause from my position at the company, and my ten percent founders shares in the firm were never repurchased. I was told by the other execs that the product had not been picked up by Lockheed, and therefore that the company had been wound down and dissolved.
Then something weird happened a few years later, which was the Russian Kremlin “Spy Rock” debacle with former U.K. Prime Minster Tony Blair:
It would appear that all or a subset of the technology we worked on with Lockheed actually did make its way into a derivative product, but unfortunately my ten percent founder’s shares in AWA were never included in any of those transactions.
One of the key technologies included within the RockCam was the wavelet imager algorithm, which was ideally suited for low latency, low bandwidth applications such as satellite imaging (I had actually negotiated a transfer of that wavelet compression algorithm into AWA for inclusion into the RockCam from a previous company I owned). It has been hinted to me that the RockCam technology has additionally been used to create derivative defense products for Lockheed such as drone imaging and fly-by-wire video-based missile targeting systems for both Lockheed and Boeing, but at this juncture I can’t prove any of that yet until I get further into the legal process to take depositions of all the players involved.
The value of this auction is item #6 above, which are the backups from the three principals in the firm including their fileserver contents. Based upon my equity ownership in the company and the fact that all AWA computing resources were conducted on my own personal equipment using my own datacenter and my Internet connection, it is well within my right to auction off the backups related to the now-defunct AWA.
Included on this CD are hundreds of documents related to the development of the RockCam including the RockCam Bill of Materials, PROTEL schematics and layout, the Gerber files used to create the custom mainboard including NC drillout files, Pick and Place output files etc, the wavelet executable used for the compression pump, all of the custom CMOS imager mechanical designs for the C-mount pinhole imager, a list of all the nuclear power plants and numbers of installed RockCams at each nuclear power plant location, all of the AWA business plan documentation as well as financial model information, lots of various financial data related to AWA and their investors as well as customers, everything related to the entire product development lifecycle including almost two years of email backups between AWA execs and Lockheed, documents describing the RockCam communication protocol specification with the M2M NOC, emails between the execs and Lockheed officials, pretty much everything you need to replicate this project and build a competing surveillance platform.
I am auctioning this off for the stated price to fund a legal team in DC dig into my dismissal from the company and to determine where the AWA intellectual property went after the demise of AWA.
For a complete inventory of the documents you will receive with this auction, send me a message and I will compile a detailed list of those items in addition to providing you with some sample documentation to demonstrate what is being delivered to the winning bidder.