The E-Mail inbox is full of links, all lead to articles, analyses and recommendations regarding the trends, hottest breakthroughs and latest technologies that would dominate our life in the coming year. We live in an amazing era of unbelievable innovation and creativity. Anything is possible and there are no boundaries.
In that ocean of information, we should review the innovative technologies of the civilian worlds and examine their relations with the military, homeland security, law enforcement and private safety worlds.
We have grown accustomed to seeing technologies sprouting in the military world and being transferred to the civilian world. Such were space flights, unmanned aircraft, cyber warfare, robotics and many other technologies. The present era is different. Many technologies are developed for civilian use and subsequently make their way into military and security applications. Many of them are adopted by military systems that continue their development and then assimilate and incorporate them in a profound manner.
The question I was interested in, is why technologies that are undoubtedly effective and necessary not being accepted in the manner and intensity they could be assimilated and become widespread in the military and security sectors.
I have found five such technologies. I have no doubt that there are others, and all of them seem to be vital and are being applied on a large and rapidly growing scale in the civilian world. All of them represent both a threat and an opportunity: wearable (computerized) technologies for on-line real-time applications; 3D printing; implementation and utilization of cloud computing; social media and virtual currency.
Wearable technologies and the Internet-of-Things (IOT) world incorporated in them offer an exceptional challenge along with an exceptional opportunities. The emergence of the ability to turn any object, animal and human into a source of information that collects, stores, transfers and receives, in real time, video, images, sound and quantitative data about the local environment as well as about the source itself (human, animal, product) enables users to create an all-embracing, multidimensional world picture from countless viewing angles and in all dimensions. Complementary analysis and forecasting capabilities based on Big Data enable the attainment of complete information about everything that takes place within the event area, at the front line and at the depth of the battlefield.
Numerous challenges face us in this case. First and foremost: generating a consciousness change and cognitive understanding among the national and HQ leaders regarding the fact that we are actually approaching a situation of complete information. The intelligence challenges: building information systems for analyzing and presenting the results in a simple and clear manner for such an amount of information, received from so many viewing angles and through all possible media. The technological challenges: integrating the sensors in an extensive range of systems, applications, fabrics, on the body, etc.; developing the ability to receive feedback, alerts, orders and information through our clothes, our tent, our sleeping bag, our personal firearm and so forth, not through dedicated, awkward monitors but as an integral part of the product itself; developing countermeasures against masking, jamming and cyber warfare attacks at the micro-tactical and personal level.
The ability to print 3D objects using polymers presents a significant security threat. This ability is available to anyone at a negligible cost and with no need for deep knowledge, expertise or licensing. The ability to independently print personal weapons (edged weapons or firearms) that may be concealed while dismantled in a non-standard, unfamiliar manner must concern every organization involved in security and defense even at this point. Standard detection and identification systems, normally based on magnetic flux, screening the contents of baggage and identifying shapes, or identifying typical odor elements, are expected to become far less effective in scenarios involving the fabrication of a disposable weapon concealed as component parts that do not betray its actual shape and function.
The opportunities are tremendous, inexpensive and offer the potential of a substantial operational contribution. 3D printers should be supplied to military field units allowing them, even at this stage, to create realistic, tangible 3D models before a battle or an operation ("sand table"), enable them to print spare parts for weapon systems in the field, fabricate components for upgrading the trooper's gear and even micro UAVs, instead of carrying them around in an awkward, vulnerable manner.
Cloud Computing & Social Media
There are numerous concerns regarding these technologies: from hacks that would disrupt the information in the cloud to the availability of the cloud when required and the possible damage to and exposure of functionaries. Additionally, the unstructured nature of the information in the social media makes them difficult to use for intelligence and C2 system based on the existing concept.
Admittedly, all of this is true, but if we examine the opportunity aspect or even the necessity aspect, we will discover some amazing facts.
Regarding the concept of cloud computing as an infrastructure of readily-available, effective and secure services anywhere, anytime and through any vehicle, it often seems that intellectual conservatism rather than a course of action of finding the solutions to problems guides our activities. In my estimate, within the not-too-distant future, all of us, including security agencies, military systems and civilian security elements will be there. The relevant questions are how will we get there and what will the stages be (readiness for cloud, what services and the type of cloud). If there is just one insight that seems certain in this context, it is that fairly soon we will look back and fail to understand why we had not been there earlier.
Similarly, if we examine the Web 2.0 concept in the social media world, without prejudice and apart from the hierarchical and deterministic world where the existing C2 and intelligence systems operate, we will discover that the concept where "everyone contributes according to his/her ability and receives according to his/her authorizations", and the integration that developed therein of various information media (video, speech, concise messages, the wisdom of crowds, etc.) embedded in the Web 2.0 world appears to be highly appropriate for the unstructured arrival of the information and to modes of operation that are contradictory and not always clear and definite. Primarily, it can substantially accelerate the required solution, particularly at the tactical levels, where complete information is not always available but it is always imperative to use whatever is available as soon as possible.
Of all the technologies I reviewed briefly in this article, this one appears to be the hardest to implement extensively, and by this time it has only been adopted by organizations interested in and required to maintain their confidentiality, on both sides of the law.
However, as the concept is assimilated more intensively by the business world and becomes more common, we should consider the use of the algorithms developed in this context (for example, Blockchain) in military and security applications that often exist in cooperation with civilian and commercial elements.
In a rapidly changing world that is neither deterministic nor hierarchical and necessitates a different operational solution, where the boundaries of the operation change and become blurred right in front of us, I believe we should exploit every capability and examine every possible technology, regardless of its origin and through an objective, forward-looking perspective, free of the restrictions and ways of thinking that characterized us in the past and even today.
Brig. Gen. (ret.) Israel (Russo) Rom, formerly IAF air crew, was among the founders of the new UAV arrays, established the systems department at the IDF C4I Directorate, and developed innovative applications for electro-optical systems and founded a social media startup. In his last position, he established the Technologies Administration of the Israel Prison Service and headed it for five and a half years.