The Challenge

Skinwalker Ranch in eastern Utah is notorious for its strange occurrences and unexplained activity, but until recently, there was little concerted effort to document such activity. In 2016, a new owner of the ranch, Brandon Fugal, set out to scientifically probe the mysteries. Along the way, Fugal and his team collected terabytes of sensitive, classified data while building a world-class data center and research environment. Finding a way to safeguard the data with military-grade security while still making it available for presentation, review, and analysis was crucial — as was facilitating continuing data collection in and around the ranch’s rugged landscape. In addition, the ranch’s work is being documented on a television show, so it is constantly under siege by outsiders, making security even more paramount.  

The Solution

“We have lots of data, but we need to get it to the right people to properly analyze it.”

– Darl McBride, chief operating officer at VirnetX

The Results

About Skinwalker Ranch

Recognized as the most scientifically studied paranormal hotspot on the planet, Skinwalker Ranch is a 512-acre secure site in Utah that has been monitored for decades with armed security and surveillance 24/7/365. This remote location was involved with a Pentagon-funded black budget project studying strange phenomena and is also known as a living laboratory for studying other intelligences and possible interdimensional phenomena. For more information visit

The Challenge

Using modern technologies to answer age-old questions

Skinwalker Ranch is a 512-acre property with a long and storied history. It’s been the site of alleged paranormal activity for decades, reporting unidentified flying objects, radio frequency (RF) and GPS interference and unexplained lights and frequencies.

In 2016, the ranch was acquired by Brandon Fugal, chairman of the global commercial real estate company Colliers International. Fugal immediately set out to document and analyze the many anomalies and unexplained phenomena using scientific methodologies. Doing so, however, would require a significant investment in technology, as the site’s previous owners had only rudimentary image- and data-capture devices, such as analog cameras and televisions.

There were — and are — other challenges, too. The ranch and its out-of-this-world incidents are currently being documented by a History Channel television series, “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch,” earning the site even more notoriety. Between the old legends and the new television show, the site attracts tourists and UFO enthusiasts, many of whom would do anything to get access. Given the growing foot traffic on the property, physical security as well as cybersecurity were necessities when adopting new technology. Not only did the technology need to protect against cyber threats and ensure secure, remote communication, but it also needed to help the command center monitor who was on the property.

The sheer size of the ranch means researchers must crisscross 512 acres daily, some of which is mountainous terrain. Because of this, the researchers needed rugged and lightweight computing devices to collect the data. The devices also needed to be securely connected via a videoconferencing solution so they could consult with each other remotely at any time. The depth and breadth of the information researchers are collecting means there is an overwhelming amount of data flowing from and into various sites. All this data feeds into a cutting-edge command center that requires military-grade solutions.

The Solution

Samsung technology unites secure connectivity, collaboration and analysis

When the Skinwalker Ranch team decided to overhaul its technology, they had a few unusual needs. For example, people often arrive at the ranch via helicopter, which takes off from a personal airport hangar in Utah Valley. The team knew they needed a way to communicate with the hanger, which functions as a transportation gateway. This meant building two communication hubs — one at the hangar and one at the ranch. Furthermore, both hubs needed military-grade teleconferencing and connectivity installed for day-to-day operation and security.

At the same time, Skinwalker Ranch needed secure infrastructure and software to support its data and information capture and analysis at its brand-new integrated command center, as well as in the often-treacherous terrain. Finally, they needed a way to digest and analyze all the images, videos and data captured by the many sensors and devices around the ranch.

Fugal, a prominent real estate mogul, reached out to VirnetX, a company that developed War Room, a videoconferencing solution that enables private encrypted networks between users, securing and authenticating devices and domains prior to making connections. Fugal wanted to use War Room on the ranch as well as in the hangar but wasn’t sure which hardware would be compatible.

VirnetX executives knew the answer lay at Samsung, as they’d worked extensively with the company and knew War Room software was not only compatible with Samsung devices such as the Samsung Interactive Display, but also the software had been optimized to work with it. It would be easy to download the VirnetX application right onto the displays.

With all the data collection taking place on the ranch, Fugal and his team also needed a way to analyze, visualize, and review the millions of data points. Samsung Interactive Displays and the AI analytics platform AThENA by predictive analytics company OmniTeq were the ideal pair. AThENA would collect and analyze the various data collected on the ranch, and Samsung display’s high-resolution imagery would allow researchers to review minute details — a critical feature in a command center environment.

“We have lots of data, but we need to get it to the right people to properly analyze it,” said Darl McBride, chief operating officer at VirnetX. “The goal was to make data ingestible at the fastest rate possible.”

Fugal chose to outfit the innovative command and data center with Samsung displays from floor to ceiling. A handful of displays would be used to monitor security and satellite footage, while others would display real-time data charts and graphs.

The Technology

Samsung Interactive Display

The Samsung Interactive Display’s advanced multi-touch capabilities allow multiple users to write and draw on the whiteboard simultaneously. Connectivity is enhanced with the 3-in-1 USB-C port.

The Results

The right partnerships bring mysteries into focus

Today, the ranch is using the Samsung displays along with AThENA and War Room to handle all its data analysis, research and collaboration. The Samsung Interactive Displays make it easy to examine the data and review video evidence right there in the room. Users can annotate, share and save the data and images all from the same interface. Using War Room, they can collaborate and connect with other team members securely. The benefits are visible as soon as anyone uses one of the displays, McBride said.

“Samsung is allowing for this really in-depth and fine-grained visualization that OmniTeq brings to the table. The Samsung displays are great because you can see visually what is going on with great clarity. You don’t see a gazillion bits of data. What you see are specific color-coded items like yellow and green, and then you’re able to easily see the anomalies and have them stand out in different colors like orange or red,” McBride explained.

Another game-changer has been the incorporation of Samsung tablets. The Skinwalker Ranch team uses Samsung tablets that have been installed with War Room so researchers in the field can capture data and send it back to the main research area.

“Each pixel has a definition. One pixel might have no meaning to you and tell the whole story to someone else.”
— Jim Royston, CEO of OmniTeq

“Our ability to walk out in the field with a tablet and a stylus, start circling things, showing people things and seeing the full dashboard up in this portable device without worrying about ‘Wow, is somebody tapping into that? Are we secure back to the center?’ We see that being more and more important out here,” said Jim Royston, CEO of OmniTeq. “Then, you’ve got your scientists back in there analyzing that data, breaking it down or looking at the very fine detail on the Interactive Displays with the use of mark-up tools and the multi-screen capability — that’s kind of the ultimate solution.”

Royston said Skinwalker Ranch is a great test case for other command center situations, where lots of data is coming in and decision makers need to act quickly. In military applications, for example, every single pixel can literally be a matter of life or death.

“Each pixel has a definition. One pixel might have no meaning to you and tell the whole story to someone else,” he said. “The ability to ingest that and present that data in a faster, clearer, more-defined way is what will allow decision makers to make the right decisions. That’s where Samsung plays a huge part in the story — the ability to ingest data and show it in a clear way.”

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Karen Stealey

Karen J. Stealey is a veteran business, health, lifestyle and technology journalist with a wide range of publishing experience. Her tech and business work has appeared in Forbes, BusinessWeek Online, Adweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, MyBusiness Magazine, Government Computer News, Workforce Management, CFO, Crain's New York and Crain's BtoB.

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