By Ian Roxborough
“Toys for peace” was the underlying theme of a presentation on the second day of the 8th Tides tech demo at Fort McNair. Dr. A. Walter Dorn, who researches peacekeeping at the Canadian Forces College talked about how changing technology is providing peacekeepers with a wide range of new – and cheap – tools for monitoring and surveillance. He drove a terrestrial robot through the audience and flew a quadcopter overhead. I have just checked on Amazon: you can buy one for $35 and up. The kind of motion-triggered lights that are common in suburban homes, baby monitors, and a range of toys and gadgets that are now widely available can be used to solve the peacekeeper’s dilemma: how to protect the force while monitoring events in a conflict environment. Clearly we have moved from a situation in which the basic technology is the human eyeball to one in which all sorts of cheap devices enable much better situational awareness. As Dr. Dorn says, there is “a truly amazing revolution in technology.”
There followed a lively discussion about whether to distribute these devices to the local population, with some in the audience wondering whether troublemakers and adversaries might be equipped with similar drones and robots. Dr. Dorn stressed that these toys were not a magic bullet: in the end the issue was one of dealing with human conflict and of staying ahead in a rapidly changing technology environment. With the rate of technological change, we can’t...
By Ian Roxborough
As I learnt today, the folks at Homeland Security are trying to develop non-invasive screening at speed that will enable passengers to move through the airport securely and without all the hassle of going through the security procedures. That’s something we will all appreciate. But as Dr. Reginald Brothers, Under-Secretary for Science and Technology for the Department of Homeland Security noted in his keynote speech to the 8th TIDES tech demo at Fort McNair, the technology research being done at DHS is very broad and has a wide range of applications. Among the points made by Dr. Brothers were the need to develop decision-making tools that would enable human decision-makers to act faster – a facility needed in a wide range of disaster situations – and the need to build resilient communities, what he called “disaster-proofing society.” The parallels between what DHS is working on and what the HA/DR community is thinking about are striking. There clearly are opportunities for synergy here.
As an example of the kind of research DHS is doing, on display at the DHS exhibit stand were 3-D printed robots designed to search through collapsed buildings fitted with sensors designed to detect the heartbeats of humans buried in the rubble. These robots save time and enable rescue dogs and humans to quickly home in on places where they might save lives.
As Dr. Brothers emphasized, underpinning these and other initiatives is a commitment to a broad...