Seattle-based CoCo Communications has entered into a contract with the U.S. Navy to provide a “zero-infrastructure” communications solution to problems encountered by boarding teams on vessels while conducting inspections for potential illegal cargo and activity.

“The requirement is that the boarding-team parties can communicate at all times when they’re interdicting a vessel,” said Pete Erickson, CoCo Commnications’ vice president of business development, said during an interview with MRT. “When they go below the hull of an intercepted ship, often times their radios don’t work, because [the signals] can’t propagate through the steel.”

“By leveraging the CoCo protocol, standard, off-the-shelf devices that have an 802.11 card can form their own network. Not only do the boarding parties maintain secure voice communications, they can also now start sharing data in real time.”

This data capability has enabled the integration of nuclear sensors, biometric sensors and streaming video in a two-way information flow to boarding-team members, Erickson said. CoCo Communications provided a similar core solution to the U.S. Coast Guard, but the solution will be customized to meet Navy specifications.

CoCo Communications’ Navy contract is being executed through the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract vehicle that is designed to encourage innovative solutions for the military. Under the program, CoCo Communications can receive as much as $100,000 to produce a white paper, $2 million for a customization effort and $10 million for open acquisition, Erickson said.

“The way that vehicle works is really nice, because it allows technology to transition from R&D into acquisition seamlessly,” he said. “The SBIR program was developed so that new technologies could not only be developed but made acquirable by any agency within the government without the need for competitive bid to encourage innovation.”