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U.K. Gets New Sim Software to Help Counter Terrorism

Aug. 2, 2012 - 04:57PM   |  
By ALAN DRON   |   Comments
The new human behaviour technology is deployed in a terrorism training simulation set in a London railroad terminus.
The new human behaviour technology is deployed in a terrorism training simulation set in a London railroad terminus. (Cassidian)
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LONDON — Cassidian, the defense and security division of EADS, is providing new simulation software to anti-terrorism agencies in the U.K. The company says this is the first software to incorporate behavioral traits that can show observers the reactions of game characters to varying situations.

The software also uses standard gaming technology to allow personnel using the game to understand how different situations can evolve, says Cassidian.

The software’s innovation is two-fold, with one element coming through the incorporation of “behavior trees.” These allow the software producers to easily script behaviors into the gaming environment. Behaviors of “bad guys,” such as terrorists, have been studied and recorded by security services for many years. The behavior tree is a visual map of the different behaviors that occur in different situations and under different pressures.

The new software stems from a project undertaken for the U.K. Ministry of Defence to incorporate behavioral aspects into a scenario involving improvised explosive devices placed at a major transport hub. It comprises 15 scenarios based around IEDs placed in a London train station. The model station is an amalgam of two real stations in the capital, Paddington and St. Pancras.

The game, “Transport Hub,” is a first-person shooter-type game in which the player takes the role of the bad guy. The point of the exercise is for people observing the game to see how the bad guy responds to different stimuli.

Andy Baldwin, head of simulation at EADS’ System Design Centre, which created the game, said the human behavior input does not simply mean that the simulation’s terrorists are programmed to veer away from an approaching police officer.

“You have to create this in a way that allows the program to sense the oncoming policeman. There can be a range of reactions depending on the location and what’s going on around him. It allows flexibility in the programming,” he said.

“Gaming technology has become increasingly sophisticated and we realized the opportunities for exploiting this technology,” Baldwin said. Adapting the training software for defense and law enforcement personnel made a product “robust enough to be used in the strategic planning of major incidents.”

The second innovative element of the software comes from the use of specialist technology to build a customized synthetic environment based on real terrain, typically in five to 10 days. That means “reducing the time required by a factor of 10, at least,” said Baldwin. This is achieved through the System Design Centre using a terrain database supplied by EADS’ space division, Astrium Services, which records the mapping data of real cities and landscapes to an accuracy of millimeters.

The new software aims to meet the increasingly complex terrorist threat, which demands a more strategic police response. The demands on police to deliver a coordinated service constitute a major challenge and make the use of rapidly developed, highly realistic simulation software more vital.

The U.K. has been on a high level of terrorism alert for some years, given the country’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and the threat of home-grown terrorists appearing from extremist sections of the country’s Muslim community. Four British Muslims detonated homemade bombs on the London transport system in July 2005, killing 52 people.

Security has reached a new pitch with the start of the Olympic Games in London, an event that sees thousands of security personnel deployed in and around the capital.

The System Design Centre is also involved in further related work for the U.K. Ministry of Defence that Baldwin declined to discuss.

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