COVID-19 News

Lincoln Lab's COVID-19 efforts extend to North Macedonia

An emergency response system developed at Lincoln Laboratory is now helping North Macedonian agencies coordinate their national response to COVID-19—just one of multiple ways the MIT-based federal lab is helping with global efforts to fight the pandemic.

North Macedonia adopted the lab's Next-generation Incident Command System (NCIS) in 2016 as part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security program. NICS is a web-based communications and collaboration platform designed to be a centralized way to track all of the response activities during a large-scale emergency. Users sign onto the platform and add details about an emergency response on a shared incident map. On this map, they can draw boundaries, enable GPS-tracking of their own locations, send messages and reports to other responders, and add live videos and photos.

North Macedonia's Crisis Management Center quickly adapted the platform to enhance its response to COVID-19. All emergency institutions in North Macedonia responsible for dealing with the pandemic are using NICS to coordinate, communicate, and cooperate countrywide. While normally only accessible to emergency personnel, NICS is also now being used for the first time to communicate directly with the public.

"North Macedonia is using the system as designed in that they are giving national, regional, and local authorities the tools to communicate and collaborate as needed. Yet, in addition to these core NICS capabilities, they are aggregating the data produced by the responding organizations into a 'public room' that can be shared in real time with the entire nation," says Stephanie Foster, a technical staff member at Lincoln Laboratory who leads the NICS NATO program.

Lincoln Laboratory worked with the Crisis Management Center team to enable public access to aspects of NICS. The goals of enabling public access were to disseminate rapidly updating information about coronavirus cases and to inform citizens on where health resources are located.

NICS was originally developed a decade ago by Lincoln Laboratory and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) to help California coordinate their responses to wildfires. Since then, responders across 250 organizations worldwide have been trained to use it. The adoption of NICS in North Macedonia is part of a wider NATO SPS project, called the Advanced Regional Civil Emergency Coordination Pilot, which aims to enhance the emergency collaboration among and within the Southeastern European nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.

The laboratory's COVID-19 efforts don't end there. MIT's contributions to the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium include Supercloud, which is an unclassified system run by Lincoln Laboratory. Like IBM's Satori supercomputer, which is part of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Supercloud has a very large number of the computing units — known as GPUs — that enable it to process information quickly, and it also has extra memory capacity.

These features make the systems slightly different from other machines in the consortium in ways that may be helpful for some types of problems, said Christopher Hill, principal research scientist with MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, who is on the new consortium's steering committee.

"For example, MIT’s two systems seem to be especially helpful at examining images from cryo-electron microscopy, which entails use of an electron microscope on materials at ultralow temperatures," Hill said. "Ultralow temperatures slow the motion of atoms, making the images clearer. In addition to the hardware, MIT faculty and staff have already expressed interest in assisting outside researchers who are using MIT equipment."

Four individuals at MIT — including a Lincoln Laboratory representative ­— will oversee the work at the Institute.

Read more about NCIS here:

Read more about Supercloud here: