Newswise — Thanks to the work of Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, a new project led by Northern Arizona University, with various collaborators throughout the nation, will help the United States better protect the critical supply chain infrastructure and the supply chains that keeps the country and its economy running.

Benjamin Ruddell, professor in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems and founder of the FEWSION project, is the NAU lead. Funded at $8 million for year one, the project aims to work with technology known as Fused Global Data Analytics and Visualization. The team’s leadership, which includes assistant research professor Richard Rushforth and FEWSION program director Lisa Whelan, will lead the effort to develop the Supply Chain Critical Infrastructure Risk Management Platform (SCRIMP). This project builds on the ground-breaking achievements of the FEWSION group by developing an open-source intelligence (OSINT) data science technology to map and forecast global supply chains.

“The pandemic and ongoing global conflicts have highlighted the vulnerability of our supply chains, which is why I’ve advocated for advanced technology to deepen understanding and ability to leverage these networks,” Sen. Kelly said. “I was glad to help deliver the critical funding for this NAU-led project, and I’ll continue working in the Senate to support special operations and further innovations that will strengthen our national security.”

The potential applications for this technology include supply chain and critical infrastructure resilience, national defense, homeland security and environmental sustainability.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and associated supply chain crises, critical minerals shortage, war in Ukraine and onshoring movement underscore the importance of supply chains for U.S. national security,” Ruddell said. “We need secure and resilient supply chains, and better information is a key step toward taking the necessary action.”

“With each crisis we endure as a nation, there are lessons learned and data gathered to help us prepare for the next event,” Whelan said. “Taking FEW-View to the next level will provide leaders and decision-makers a critical resource to aid in preparedness and security of supply chains.”

SCRIMP will address several key limitations of the original FEWSION work, Rushforth said.

“We’re moving our work from annual snapshots at the county level that are a couple years old to high-resolution, real-time information to aid planning, forecasting and risk management,” he said. “Because of this we’ll have to reimagine how we visualize and interact with our data to facilitate informed decision-making.”

FEWSION is a big data project that monitors supply chains. FEWSION was founded by a National Science Foundation grant in 2016, and the original research team launched the nation’s first public supply chain visualization tool, FEW-View, in 2019. FEW-View has supported emergency management and policy response through several hurricanes, a trade war, the western water crisis, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The timely introduction of FEW-View attracted interest from the homeland security, defense and policy communities, which led to this new collaboration. SCRIMP will build on the FEW-View technology and move it forward to meet some of the nation's urgent requirements for better information.

“FEWSION is an example of the incredible research from NAU that is making the world a better and safer place for all its citizens,” said President José Luis Cruz Rivera. “NAU is grateful for the leadership of Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly for advocating for funding to the Department of Defense to support the critical issue of supply chain and infrastructure security and resilience and the leadership from so many who have contributed to this project.”

Register for reporter access to contact details