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Technology on the battlefield and “The Golden Hour”

Government Computing News has just published an article on smartphones on the battefield, and within the Defense sector specifically. That article can be read here: http://gcn.com/Articles/2011/05/03/Cyber-defense-handheld-encryption.aspx . It's a very good article, and one that highlights the challenges with using commercial products in a military or intelligence setting, where the stakes are much higher in some cases.

But it reminded me of a presentation I saw late last year about "The Golden Hour" from Air Commodore Tony Boyle (UK Defence Operations Board) and the use of technology to help get medical attention to wounded combatants much faster. The Golden Hour is a medical term originally coined by the military to describe that window of opportunity (usually 60 minutes) to save a life after severe trauma occurs. And while there is controversy (see the wikipedia article on this here) about it's validity, there is absolutely no doubt that getting a wounded solider proper medical care faster raises the survival odds.

The overall presentation was titled "Future Networks - Enabling Defence Interoperability and Interconnectivity" and he also got into the military doing more with COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) systems, as well as looking at private industry for 'best practices' and practical savings. What follow's is my Quest colleague's (Ian Davidson) write-up of the presentation.

He gave some insights into how technology is actually used in theatre – some of which may seem obvious but nonetheless was very interesting.

One “vignette” was regarding an incident with Viking Patrol in Lashkar Gah :

When the IED went off, a 9 line text message was automatically sent to multiple places with differing results :

  • One text message went to a Hermes ISTAR which automatically deployed it to the location of the explosion to monitor the area immediately
  • Another text message went to a 904 squadron to deploy a Harrier which arrived in the area within 6 minutes.
  • Another went to the Casualty Ops – the result of which was that 9 doctors/surgeons were lined up waiting when the casualties arrived – and had been automatically notified of blood type/ full history/allergies etc.

    This combination of events lead to the casualties being dealt with by medics– well within “The Golden Hour” – the period of 60 minutes after sever trauma in which casualties are most likely to survive . In fact they were on the operating tables within 15 minutes of the device going off.

    The whole point of this story was to illustrate how the military on joint operations depend on sharing information collaboratively in order to ensure the success of any given military operation – no pun intended.

    “No secrets” between different military “departments” and deployments mean that soldiers survive based on a POST and subscribe method.

    Each operating division posts information that is likely to be identified as a serious threat or something requiring immediate attention, and others can subscribe to that information.

    He then went on to discuss the different business models that have come around over the last 10 years and how increasingly open systems via the internet allow for people to become enabled to share information sensibly – using an analogy about Amazon re: systems training. i.e. “No one goes to school to learn how to order books from Amazon”.

    He also discussed ideas around redefining what needs to be secret and what doesn’t – stating that (as an example) in the case of military personnel ordering clothing provisions – there is no real need for it to be “so “ secure and locked down internally.

    Why not use M & S for shirts for example – the worst thing that can happen is that M & S get hacked by another foreign country and he potentially gets the wrong shirt size delivered !

    (For the non-UK based folks, M & S is Marks & Spence, a UK department store similar to Nordstrom).

    Overall, it was a great presentation, making the case for using technology to it's fullest extent, and making sure people are comfortable with whatever model you set up.

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    Copyright (C) 2010-2011 Dmitry Kagansky – All opinions expressed are those of the respective author and do not reflect the views of any affiliate, partner, employer or associate.