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Another great convergence of commercial and defense technologies

Nov. 12, 2013 - 03:20PM   |  
By JEFF HOYLE   |   Comments
Jeff Hoyle, Director of Technology, Defense and Intelligence Group, AtHoc, and former Navy captain/JTRS waveform program manager.
Jeff Hoyle, Director of Technology, Defense and Intelligence Group, AtHoc, and former Navy captain/JTRS waveform program manager. ()
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C4ISRNET.com recently reported on an Android Terminal Assault Kit (ATAK) smartphone app being developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory and Charles Stark Draper Laboratory to allow troops to call in air strikes quickly and efficiently, reducing opportunities for error and increasing effectiveness. What a great example of marrying commercial and defense technologies to enhance warfighting capability. By leveraging commercial Android software and military tactical mobile ad hoc networks such as the Soldier Radio Waveform and Wideband Networking Waveform, AFRL and Draper labs are transforming the way troops request air support.

Another area where connecting the dots between commercial and defense technologies can significantly enhance mission accomplishment and save lives is emergency response. Military first responders and supervisors are constantly challenged to respond rapidly, while coordinating with multiple government agencies, emergency personnel and affected individuals. Commercial technologies can enable unified alerting to facility-based and personal devices for outbound communications, while collecting and tracking solicited responses.

Lessons learned from disasters also highlight the need for inbound notifications from affected individuals. Reports of a shooting or terrorist attack should facilitate automatic and seamless transmission of supporting details such as a photo/video of the event, its location and personal identification information. Widespread adoption of smart devices provides both military and civilian personnel with extended capabilities, including geo-location and multimedia support. Driven by the pressing need for efficient emergency management, a convergence is emerging, where inbound and outbound networked data flows enable effective intercommunication with affected personnel.

The Department of Defense Commercial Mobile Device (CMD) Implementation Plan highlights this ongoing communications convergence explicitly in stating: “The ability to leverage CMDs to augment, enhance, or replace existing communications capabilities is considered a total force (e.g., DoD, Federal, and Civil) enabler that will empower a new generation of digital collaboration technology. Mobile devices with reach-back to network-based services will allow distributed commanders and staffs to collaborate as though co-located. Developing networks that can simultaneously integrate DoD and public safety networks will widen the circle of actors who can support a given operation, allowing diverse stakeholders to contribute insights and expertise in real time.”

Recent tragic events at the Washington Navy Yard and Los Angeles Airport have highlighted the importance of emergency response, particularly in regard to enhanced two-way communications flow between emergency managers and the populations they serve. Converging commercial cloud and mobile technologies with appropriate military and civilian first responder enterprise and tactical networks will enable a significant step forward toward next generation crisis communications. The Air Force is moving forward in this area with an ongoing evaluation of mobile device and commercial collaboration software for emergency response at three Air Force bases — Scott, Goodfellow and Fairchild. So far, this effort has been highly successful, simultaneously streamlining communications, sharing real-time situational awareness among first responders and informing decision makers.

This convergence of defense and commercial technologies to support emergency communications will be the topic of a panel discussion I’m moderating at the upcoming Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) MILCOM 2013 conference in San Diego on Nov. 19. Col. Mike Kelly (Air Force Security Forces Commander), LTC(P) Ed Mattison (Army CIO/G6 Mobility Lead) and Guy Miasnik (President, CEO and Co-Founder of AtHoc Inc.) will explore this convergence and actions needed to accelerate it. Hope to see you there!

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