Warrior Augmentation

Warrior Augmentation

I love the direction DARPA is going in with robotic exoskeletons for our warfighters.

Helping soldiers perform their jobs easier, more capably, and with less injury using human augmentation is good sense.

Military men and women often carry weight in excess of 100 pounds for long distances and perform other tasks that challenge human physical endurance.

Creating a durable “soft, lightweight under[or over]suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve soldiers ability to efficiently perform their missions” is an smart and achievable goal, and one that would give us great advantage in the battlefield.

The timeframe of 2012-2016 is an aggressive deadline to form the mix of core technologies, integrate them, and develop a wearable prototype.

I think the goal of having this be “potentially wearable by 90% of the U.S. Army population” is notable as not something that is for just special forces or unique missions, but rather something that can medically protect and make for a superior fighting force for all of our men and women.

This is really only the beginning of human augmentation with sensors, storage, processors, and robotics to make our warriors fight with the best that both man and machine has to offer. It’s not a fight of man versus machine, but of man and machine.

Seeing and hearing farther and with more clarity, connecting and communicating timely and under all conditions, processing loads of data into actionable information, fighting and performing mission with superior skills (strength, speed, dexterity, and endurance) and integrated weapon systems, guiding warriors to their targets and home safely–these are goals that man-machine augmentation can bring to reality.

And of course, the sheer medical and rehabilitative benefits of these technologies in caring for the sick and disabled in society is enough to “pedal to metal” drive these efforts alone.

Like on the prescient show from the 70’s, The Six Million Dollar Man, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology…Better than he was before. Better…stronger…faster.”

And I would add healthier and more deadly! 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to DARPA and Boston Dynamics)

When Technology Fails, People Can Succeed

Sun_trolley

We were really happy to find the Sun Trolley in Ft. Lauderdale.

For 50 cents a person, you can ride between the beautiful beaches and downtown Las Olas Street where there are wonderful art stores, cafes, museums, and shopping. 

One day, riding the bus though, there was a technology failure that really made we think about the relationship between man and machine. 

On the bus, there was a elderly couple with a teenage girl and a young boy, who was in a wheelchair.

Driving along the beach (and hotels), the couple indicated to the driver that they wanted to get off (these buses don’t stop at pre-assigned stops, but rather wherever people say they want to get on or off). 

The bus pulls over and the driver gets up and goes to the back of the bus, and he starts trying to work the device that make the bus wheelchair accessible.

But despite the driver trying to get the device to work, nothing happens.

The women and girl had already left the bus and where standing on the sidewalk waiting. The other people on the bus were waiting to get to their destination as well. And the man and the boy in the wheelchair seemed both embarrassed at the scene, but also worried how they were going to get this heavy wheelchair off the bus. 

The driver pulls out some metal pole contraption and is trying to free the wheelchair accessibility device on the stairs–again, over and over–but still can’t get the device to work. 

I thought about this poor family, but also about how dependent we are on technology and when it doesn’t work–very often we are not sure what to do, because we just assume it will (like it always does, or is supposed to). 

When I saw that the driver was not going to be successful with getting the device to work, I got up and said to the man–can I help you (i.e. to help him with the wheelchair and boy).

Not sure how this elderly man and I would do it, I was glad when another man came forward and offered to help as well.

Between the three of us, we carried the boy and wheelchair down the stairs and off the bus, being careful that the boy was safe and comfortable. 

I was glad that we were able to help this family, but also continued to think that technology never will really be a substitute for people, because technology is not only developed, operated and maintained by people, but also that technology invariably can fail, and people must step up when it does. 

Technology is great when it works, but it is never failproof, so we had better be prepared for those days when systems go down and we must carry on. 😉

>Man-Machine Interface and Enterprise Architecture

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A critical component of User-centric Enterprise Architecture is designing technology solutions to meet end-user requirements, and this includes making the man-machine interface simple and user-friendly. Often, this is referred to as ergonomics, defined as “the applied science of equipment design intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue, safety and discomfort. “ (www.spyderco.com/edge-u-cation/glossary.php)

According to Federal Computer Week, 4 August 2008, “Air Force researchers aim to help pilots and others operate increasingly complex aircraft and mission support systems.”

Unfortunately, all too often, the man-machine interface is not dealt with up front. “Traditionally, the machine and the technology are designed first and then the pilot has to deal with what’s left over, usually through training,” says Maris Vikmanis of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Not designing in ergonomics from the get-go is a failure to consider the human capital perspective of enterprise architecture and will result in technology solutions that are sub-optimal to the end users and to the performance of the mission.

Dan Goodard, chief of the directorate’s Warfighter Interface Division, states, “There’s now so much reconnaissance data flowing down into the AOC (Air Operations Center) that it’s information overload. You need a much better human-machine interface to be able to get actionable information out of this very quickly.

One example of enhancing man-machine interface is “deciding the best interface for people to use with onscreen data. A regular mouse turns out not to be so good for this; it would be better if someone could actually reach into the data to interact with it, which means devising more tangible interfaces.” (Remember the movie Minority Report…) I do not know if this type of 3-D data interface even has a name yet, but I would call it something like virtual data manipulation (VDM).

Another example goes beyond the senses of sight and touch to that of hearing. “Sound perception can play an equally important role in combat scenarios. On the battlefield, people often pick up aural cues about what’s happening before they see it. Developing technology that can take advantage of that is the goal of Battlespace Acoustics Branch of the Warfighter Interface Division.”

We’ve got to change from the “build it and they will come” mindset of the failed dot.com era to a more User-centric EA approach that demands that we design IT with the end-user in mind.

As Goodard summed up, “there’s been a lack of awareness about the importance of the man-machine interface in the early designs of weapons systems.” It’s certainly time to change that and not only for military and law enforcement systems, but for IT across the board.

>Texting Gone Wild and Enterprise Architecture

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Information availability and communication mobility is all the craze. We are connected everywhere we go. We have our phones, PDAs, and laptops as part of our everyday gear. We wouldn’t leave the house without one or more of them or a converged device like the iPhone or Sidekick. And people are walking and driving around yapping on the phone or typing out text messages. Evan at work, people are answering the phone and texting in the stall. What is it about being connected with these devices that we literally can’t let go?

The Wall Street Journal, 25 July 2008, reports that “Emailing on the Go Sends Some Users Into Harm’s Way.”

These multi-taskers “ram into walls and doorways or fall down stairs. Out on the streets, they bump into lampposts, parker cars, garbage cans, and other stationary objects.”

Are people getting hurt?

You bet. James Adams of Northwestern Memorial Hospital is Chairman of Emergency Medicine, and he states “he has treated patients involved in texting incidents nearly every day this summer.”

Things have gotten so out of control that one London company began “outfitting lampposts with padded bumpers in the in the East End to cut down on injuries to errant texters.”

The stories go on and on about texters who bump into brides at wedding, fall off of curb and into construction barricades, walk into two-by-fours toted by construction workers, knock into bikers, and fall down staircases.

As a student of organizational behavior and an enterprise architect, I ask myself what is going on that people feel such a compelling need to be in touch literally every second. Are people craving intimacy? Are they insecure? Do they get a high by connecting with others and just can’t stop? Is this good thing for society and our organizations?

Certainly, the ability to communicate anytime, anywhere is a good thing. It makes us more capable. It can make us more productive (if we don’t end up killing ourselves in stupid accidents doing it irresponsibly). But like all good things, we need to learn to control our appetite for them. It’s the difference between eating thoughtfully or eating thoughtless, like glutton. Or between taking medicine when needed to treat a legitimate medical condition or just using recklessly like an addict.

Part of good enterprise architecture is building balance into the organization. Architects introduce new technologies to enable performance, but should also help develop policies and ensure training for responsible usage.

It’s terrific to bring new capabilities to the organization and society, but our role as architects does not end there. The human capital perspective of the enterprise architecture comes into play and demands that we go beyond the pure business requirements and technology solutions, and explore the impact of the technology on the people who will use. The human capital perspective of the architecture provides a lens through which we can manage the integration of people and technology.

I’d believe that we should educate people to use technology more responsibly, rather than outfit every lamppost and tree with bumper pads!

>Lessons from GE and Enterprise Architecture

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General Electric (GE) is one of the largest, most successful, and most respected companies in the world. What lessons can we learn from their CIO to more successfully architect and manage our enterprises?

Fortune Magazine, 21 July 2008, reports on an interview with Gary Reiner, the CIO of GE, who has been in his role for a dozen years and oversees a $4 billion IT budget.

Reverse auctions

In purchasing IT, a major corporate expense these days, buying on reverse auction can save your enterprise mega bucks. A reverse auction is one where the purchaser puts out the specs for what they are looking to buy, and sellers bid their lowest price they are willing to sell at. (This is the opposite of a traditional auction where a seller puts out their wares for buyers to bid their highest price they are willing to purchase at). You want to avoid selling on auction at the lowest price (by differentiating you product so it isn’t treated as a commodity), but you want to purchase on reverse auction to get the best price for your purchases. In our organizations, perhaps enterprise architecture can partner with procurement and finance to leverage reverse auctions in planning for and purchasing major IT investments to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) thereby more effectively managing scarce IT resource dollars i.e. getting more modernization/transformation for the IT dollar.

Process Improvement

GE’s CIO is responsible for Six Sigma, driving down deviances and defects in its processes. GE’s CIO says that “Six Sigma is a wonderful tool, but it is [just] a tool. What we are talking about as a company is outcomes, and the two outcomes we really want are product reliability and customer responsiveness…on the responsiveness side, it’s often less about Six Sigma and more about getting the right people in the room to map out [the processes for] how long it takes for us to do something…[and] take out those things in the way of meeting customer needs responsibly.” From an enterprise architecture perspective this is closely aligned to the idea of IT as an enabler for business, but one where business process improvement and reengineering comes first.

Information-based business

GE businesses are information-based. “In every one of our infrastructure businesses, we do something called remote monitoring and diagnostics, where we attach sensors to our equipment. So there are sensors in every locomotive, every gas turbine, every aircraft engine, [and] every turbo compressor. We’ve got software that resides with our customer or in our shops…that analyzes that data and is able in many cases to predict problems before they occur. We can prevent outages from occurring.” This information-based approach is similar to enterprise architecture and IT governance. The enterprise architecture is the information-based planning for the organization’s business and IT. And the IT governance is the information-based management and monitoring for selecting, controlling, and evaluating investments. Together enterprise architecture and IT governance are our “sensors” for predicting/planning the change and preventing problems/ensuring more successful IT project delivery.

Emerging technologies

GE sees a number of emerging technologies as having a major impact in coming years. The first, man-machine interface will evolve from keyboards and mice to “multitouch gestures,” such as “the ability to use your hands directly on screens.” Secondly, organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), “extremely thin screens…so thin that you’ll be bale to roll them up and fold them and carry them…you’ll be carrying around your screen.” And third, is cloud-computing, ‘having all your applications centrally located…[with] almost every document you create is for collaboration” and built on the web. In short, it’s really all about increased mobility of communications and ubiquity of information. Enterprise architecture should help facilitate the adoption of these new technologies.

Innovation

At GE speed to market is critical to bringing new product innovations to market, providing value to customers, and maintain an edge on the competition. IT is an enabler for new product development processes. In enterprise architecture, innovation is critical to breaking old paradigms and thinking out of the box and making real change that has contributes to significant improvements in organizational results. In product development, for example, I believe this involves everything from next generation computer aided design and manufacturing tools (CAD/CAM) to business intelligence systems and fusion engines for analyzing your customers and market changes to advances in automation and robotics for speeding and improving the manufacturing process.

GE is helping lead the way building sound enterprise architectures in corporate America!