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DARPA's Map-Based Wiki Keeps Platoons Alive 86

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-wiki-of-one dept.
blackbearnh writes "One of the biggest problem that a platoon on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan faces is that when a new unit cycles in, all the street-sense and experience of the old unit is lost. Knowing where insurgents like to plant IEDs, or even which families have a lot of domestic disputes, can spell the difference between living and dying. In response to this, DARPA created TIGR, the Tactical Ground Reporting System. Developed as much on the ground in active warzones as in a lab, TIGR lets platoons access the latest satellite and drone imagery in an easy-to-use map based interface, as well as recording their experiences in the field and accessing the reports of other troops. In this O'Reilly Radar interview, two of the people responsible for the development of TIGR talk about the intel issues that troops face in hostile territory, the challenges of deploying new technology meant for combat areas, the specific tricks that they had to employ to make TIGR work over less-than-robust military networking, and how TIGR is impacting platoons in their day to day operations"
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DARPA's Map-Based Wiki Keeps Platoons Alive

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  • This sounds great, a very useful tool.

    Of course this assume the enemy hackers are not as good as your hackers to protect the content and maps. Or it might be used against them.

    • by thedonger (1317951) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:53AM (#27685879)

      Of course this assume the enemy hackers are not as good as your hackers

      You are assuming the network over which it is served in the field is not completely localized. Or that somehow it never occurred to them that the Taliban might have hackers.

      You are arm-chair IT managing.

    • Long before worrying about that I'd be worrying about whether many guys will actually get to use this stuff. The things you read about in Popular Science and hear about on tech news sites don't reach every guy on the ground. Every time I ask my friends on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan about stuff like this they just laugh themselves silly.
  • So they just ported Wikimapia [wikimapia.org]?

    Or... dare say, they're using Wikimapia itself?! [wikimapia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drakaan (688386)
      Doubtful...the original TIGR system was a basic data communications package for intel[ligence]-related stuff that predates most every website in existence today (I first worked with it back in '96, and I know it had been in use for a few years prior to that, and probably under development for a decade). Knowing how the Army, in particular, tends to deploy technology means that they probably created some kind of overlay (probably in Java) to display historical situation reports based on grid coordinates. N
  • Excellent tool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mc1138 (718275) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:16AM (#27685581) Homepage
    This is great for a couple of reasons. First it gives troops on the ground better intel on what to watch for and where, doing a job of keeping them alive. But it also looks like it can help troops get a better understanding of the area. What are your poor areas prone to violence. Long gone are the days when you can shoot first and ask questions later. This sort of intel is a valuable step to understanding the people over there and maybe even working with them rather than working against them. I'm sure the vast majority of Iraqi's just want an end to the violence, and are willing to work with whomever will help them get the status quo back.
    • by searp (1248692)
      Good point. The "intel" word is a little scary to many people, but what we're really talking about here is what is called "situation awareness" - the troops know enough to spot danger, know friends, etc. The soldiers use the tool to know the people and the terrain; this can indeed lower the violence, make aid programs more targeted and effective etc.
  • TIGR = Tactical Ground Reporting System?

    So... where did the I come from, and where did the S go? Surely it wouldn't have been hard to actually put something in for the I - Tactical Interactive Ground Reporting would have worked well, I think.

    • Sorry, lack of funding. There was only enough money for one TIGR, but next year we might be able to afford a few more TIGRS.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Ukab the Great (87152)

      Even more disturbing, this acryonym could be confused with TIGER [wikipedia.org], resulting in some guy in Fallujah getting a map of Cleveland and some guy in Cleveland thinking there's a IED around the next turn.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Snowy_Duck (963442)
      We already have a huge network over here called Tigris. It's a locally contracted civilian internet connection that the soldiers can subscribe to for their own private use. They probably didn't want to have a system that contains highly sensitive information called something so similar (if they even considered it). In fact, they probably should have changed it to something completely different.
      • by KatAngel (1454415)
        If that was the case, why not just go with TGR? What confuses me is the randomly appearing "I" that seems to serve no purpose, save to make it sound like "Tiger."
      • by Narcogen (666692)
        Should I come over and open a competing service and call it Euphrates?
    • Its a silent "I," like the "P" in swimming.

    • by Narcogen (666692)
      It has to be TIGR and not TGRS. Because the wonderful thing about TIGR is that it's the only one.
  • A poem (Score:5, Funny)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:19AM (#27685617)
    The wonderful thing about TIGR, is TIGR's a wonderful thing.
    It doesn't have any trouble using Milit'ry networking.
    It's good for intel in the field, and fun fun fun fun fun!
    So boot up that there TIGR, while I go get my gun.
    • I prefer (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bornyesterday (888994)
      TIGR! TIGR! burning bright
      In the desert city night,
      With intel at hand and eye
      Our foe will surely fear to try!
    • It's the eye of the TIGR, it's the cream of the fight
      Risin' up to the challenge of our rival
      And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
      And he's watchin' us all in the eye of the TIGR

      (Hmm, didn't have to change a thing.)

    • by MrTester (860336)

      Oh! Thank you so freakin' much!
      Now I am going to have that song stuck in my head all damn day!

      Im tempted to counter attack with the Wiggles "Fruit Salad" song, but it seems th new administration is serious about cracking down on those who use torture.

    • ...
      Sgt. : Look, look. All right, smarty-pants. You two, you two, come at me then with raspberries. Come on, both of you, whole basket each.
      Palin: No guns.
      Sgt. : No.
      Palin: No 16-ton weights.
      Sgt. : No.
      Idle : No pointed sticks.
      Sgt. : Shut up.
      Palin: No rocks up in the ceiling.
      Sgt. : No.
      Palin: And you won't kill us.
      Sgt. : I won't.
      Palin: Promise.
      Sgt. : I promise I won't kill you. Now. Are you going to attack me?
      Palin & Idle: Oh, all right.
      Sgt. : Right, now don't rush me this time. Stalk me. Do it properly. St

    • This gives a more intense meaning to the 'Edit Wars'

  • Useful and Needed (Score:5, Informative)

    by Snowy_Duck (963442) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:30AM (#27685715)
    As a soldier currently in Baghdad and having gone through about 10 RIPs (Relief in Place) in my 13 months here this would be a great benefit. The usual RIP lasts about a week involving the leaving unit showing the new unit's leadership the main areas for a couple days. After those couple of days the new unit takes over and only a select few from the old unit accompanies them. Completely all knowledge from the old unit is lost except that which is important enough to be on the company/battalion level. My platoon alone has taken over roughly 15 AOs (Areas of Operations), just to turn them over a couple weeks later to another unit. To have a tool that shows all the historical data on a platoon (or even squad) level would greatly benefit the incoming units and the local populace. The current system just isn't good enough. It's the equivalent of getting a quick walk through of a house and then trying to determine what parts are in need of fixing.
    • by fabs64 (657132) <beaufabry+slashdot,org&gmail,com> on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:38AM (#27685767)

      Sounds like the army encounters (on a more dangerous scale) one of the very same problems that the corporate world does. Loss of institutional knowledge.

      Makes sense that they should try out systems similar to those that are being trialled in other areas to combat this problem.

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        I do wonder how long until this gets picked up by local law enforcement...

        This is a bit worrisome, depending on the eventual content of the wiki. Using the corporate example, imagine two different systems:

        A) Reporting likes all their assignments to be ran by Sally first.

        Vs...

        B) Sally is a total conniving bitch. Do not trust her any farther than a child could throw her fat ass. Make sure she is on the hook for any assignments that go through Reporting, or she'll burn you - hard core.

        While both of these ar

        • by fabs64 (657132)

          It worries me that we give fallible people the ability to arrest, detain and fire weapons upon other people.

          It worries me less that we give fallible people the ability to communicate.

          Not to be curt, but "people suck" seems to be a catch all argument for anything government these days.

        • by swillden (191260)

          I do wonder how long until this gets picked up by local law enforcement...

          About -50 years. Maybe more. Law enforcement calls it the "blotter", and most anything of substance makes it there. The officers in the field don't have direct electronic access to did (or didn't -- now that they have radio-connected laptops in their cars, maybe they do), but the desk sergeant sure does.

          The main problem that this tool is intended to solve, though, is one that law enforcement rarely has. Police departments tend to have a core staff with very low turnover that provides long-term institu

          • by BobMcD (601576)

            Thanks for the search term, but I don't think this is quite the same thing.

            Here's one Google found with your term:

            http://www.randolphnj.org/police/blotter/ [randolphnj.org]

            Incident Date: 4-19-09
            Incident #: 2009-015167
            Charged: Daniel D. Caputo, 48 of Randolph NJ

            Mr. Caputo turned himself in to Officer Jason Gould at police headquarters to answer a Randolph warrant. The bail of $340.00 was posted and Mr. Caputo was released.

            This is really just a form of 'crib notes' on the public record.

            I do intend to keep looking, however...

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:06AM (#27686771) Homepage Journal

        I'm a military commander and I often find that my troops are invading the wrong houses, bombing schools, et cetera. I've heard that in technical support organizations they use "knowledge base" software to keep track of the solutions to common problems. I have just two questions. 1) Which knowledge base packages meet military security requirements? 2) Will I be able to prevent soldiers from entering "put a bullet in it" as the solution to every problem?

        • I'm a military commander and I often find that my troops are invading the wrong houses, bombing schools, et cetera.

          Put a bullet in it.

      • by PPH (736903)

        Exactly. And tying this information to a map is probably the best UI for military operations. In the corporate world, you may have to do a little head-scratching to put together the correct search term. But on the ground, the key parameter is usually your location. And that can be obtained automatically. You shouldn't have to ask it, it should be able to track your current position and alert you to anything of potential interest in the area. And if the troops are carrying cameras or other recording equipmen

    • by searp (1248692)
      TIGR was designed to help with that problem. It is partially in place in the US to help with training prior to deployment; the rollout has been really rapid and somewhat uneven. We hope to provide it to all the troops long before deployment. The 1CD got caught in a bad fight in Sadr City right after rotating in, I think it was 2004. They have been strong proponents. Deployment has been uneven, that is getting fixed.
    • by drerwk (695572)
      Duck. You want to work on technology that might help when you get back to the States? I'm in the Boston area. andrew dot kaluzniacki at baesystems dot com
  • Don't panic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:35AM (#27685753) Homepage

    I totally need something like this for my GPS-enabled cell phone for a real world Hichhiker's Guide. :)

    • by WmLGann (1143005)
      I was sort of assuming, when they mentioned in-the-field access to the system, they were going to develop some kind of iPhone app, like the stuff mentioned the other day.
  • Yes, it's apparently a wiki [wikipedia.org] ("a collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone with access to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language").

    No, it's apparently not a Wiki [wikipedia.org] ("a type of collaborative software that runs a Wiki system"). From TFA:

    TIGR is somewhat like Google Maps and Wiki, but the backend of TIGR was very, very carefully designed so that it would work over military networks in these tactical environments where, as you can imagine, the network is very fragile and the bandwidth is sparse.

    Is it just me, or does Wikipedia have a pretty circular definition of what is not a wiki?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wow, yet another fast tracked technology that just adds to our footprint. We have so many different types of systems: tons of mapping software, command and control software, sharepoint, COPOF(command post of the future), IRC, share drives... The list goes on and on.

    The fact is while i haven't seen this particular piece of software yet i already see it now. It is going to come in its own green 'field expedient' case. It will be one more thing to take up the little bandwidth we have on our network.

    Obviousl

  • two of the people responsible for the development of TIGR talk about the intel issues that troops face in hostile territory
    Have they tried using AMD instead?
  • Put a TIGR in your tank!
  • I'm an Army LT currently deployed. I've seen this in action and have a good idea what it's capable of. The best analogy is that it's basically a customized version of Google Maps with the following:
    - access to newer imagery
    - customized route & search tools
    - user submitted reporting
    - automatically imports historical reports

    There are no special pelican cases and 5 year old rubberized hardware. It won't tie in to your BFT in your vehicle (at least

    • by searp (1248692)
      It will get out to the vehicles as fast as possible. I will say many of the users are enlisted, and I worked with some patrol soldiers who used it. Going to the vehicles is a big change - more collaboration tools needed, network non-existent, etc. Working on it, though.

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