Four top-level federal organizations are taking a cue from the journalism handbook by focusing on the “who, what, when and where” to improve information sharing. Without developing new standards, this collaborative effort has created a federal information exchange specification and implementation profile that enables agencies to harvest the basics, regardless of where the data resides. Once fully embraced, this methodology, which still is in its infancy, holds great promise for addressing many of the information-sharing flaws identified by the 9/11 Commission and other assessments of the shortfalls in communications prior to the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The U.S. Army is developing a network-centric system to connect and manage its air defense systems. The capability will provide commanders with a dynamic, real-time picture of the battlespace through shared data feeding into the network. Dynamic software will permit warfighters to establish defenses quickly by selecting available weapons batteries and sensors across a theater of operations and linking them into a combat mission.
U.S. Marines providing on-site command, control, communications, computers and intelligence support have a new tool—a tactical network in a box—that allows them to learn to use the most recent software in a virtual environment.
Military and humanitarian relief personnel now can reach out from the field more easily with a product that combines voice and data communications capabilities in a single box. The approximately 65-pound kit is field portable, ruggedized and self-cooling. It uses open architecture standards and can be applied to hastily formed networks, military operations, disaster response and medical relief efforts.
Technology is enabling base commanders and command post personnel to send out alerts in emergency situations more quickly. The new warning systems, being installed on several U.S. military bases, use the base network to reach every communications device connected to the network while tying in more traditional alert components such as public address systems and telephony.
The military is finding that voice over Internet protocol is an effective technology for secure collaboration and information sharing on converged networks-those that combine voice, video and data. Defense organizations are migrating from the isolated, point-to-point communications models of the past toward a more agile, networked and collaborative environment. At the same time, they are replacing their proprietary communications solutions with more interoperable systems based on open standards.
Many of the complex and often tediously precise tasks for computer and telecommunications planners and administrators can now be delegated to automation software designed to graphically represent architectures. The software eliminates many of the network maintenance frustrations by presenting information in a basic diagram with embedded data accessible in multiple levels beneath the illustrations.
Now that information service providers are rushing to provide global high-speed connectivity, differences of opinion have emerged about which type of protocol will best link diverse users. The potential for a dramatic shift in network methodology and the inability to predict what the future communications protocol of choice will be have left developers in a quandary.
The network urban landscape is under construction. And while T-1 lines and Ethernet may deliver the power, they are also becoming the lines of communication between cyberbuildings that host fully equipped accommodations for meetings, classes and seminars.
The Internet's promise of providing low-cost electronic commerce and information exchange in reality is bringing a whole new set of obstacles to corporations that are embracing these seemingly broad opportunities. These obstacles, apart from conventional logistics snags, involve rising costs, corporate intrigue and mushrooming marketing budgets.