Resilience In The Face Of Disaster


This year when ball drops in Time Square next week to usher in the New Year, it will be a little different than in prior years, because rather than blanket cheer, there will be a good amount of consternation as we hit the debt limit of $16.4 trillion as well as the Fiscal Cliff where broad spending cuts and tax increases are to go into effect (whether in full, partial with some sort of deal, or in deferral).

Like the statue pictured here, the strength and resilience of the American people will be tested and we will need to stand tall and strong. 

In this context, it was interesting to read in Wired Magazine (January 2013) a interview with Andrew Zolli, the author of Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, an exploration of the importance of resilience in the face of adversity. 

Whether in response to natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy or man-made ones like the financial crisis and terrorism, we need to be prepared to adapt to disaster, respond and continue operations, and recover quickly to rebuild and grow. 

According to Zolli, we need shock absorbers for our social systems that can “anticipate events…sense their own state…and can reorganize to maintain their core purpose amid disruption.”

Adaptability is important, so that we can continue to operate in an emergency, but also vital is “self-repair” so we can “bounce back.”

These concepts for resiliency in emergency management are similar to how Government Computer News (December 2012) describes the desire for building autonomous self-healing computer systems that can defend and recover from attacks. 

The notion is that when our computer systems are under cyber attack, we need to be able to defend them in an automated way to counter the threats in a timely fashion. 

Thus, acccording to GCN, we need IT systems that have situational monitoring for self awareness, real-time identification of an attack, continuous learning to adapt and defend againt changing attack patterns, and self-healing to recover from them. 

Thus, bouncing back from social and cyber disasters really requires similar resilience, and for some challenges, it may be sooner than later that we are tested. 😉

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

Keeping All Our Balls In The Air

This is the throwable panoramic ball camera.It has 36 cameras and when thrown in the air, takes 360-degree pictures of it’s surroundings as it reaches it’s apex (i.e. the highest point in the air).You can see behind you, above you, all around you even things that you didn’t even know where there.And you can pan, zoom, and scroll to get the precise view you want.The pictures are amazing–instantly, you have a birds eye view, but only better, because even a bird can’t see behind it’s head, but you can.The implications for artists, photo hobbyists, and outdoor enthusiasts is one thing, but then there are the possibilities for improved surveillance and reconnaissance for homeland and national security.Watch for camera balls to be used not only for throwing in beautiful and/or dangerous environments, but also for posting at security checkpoints, critical infrastructure, transportation hubs and more.One question I have is, whether the camera ball become a one-time use device, if you don’t catch it and it ends up smashing into the ground.Situational awareness is about to get a real bounce out of this one.

>What’s In An IT Acronym


In the military and public safety world, information technology is often discussed in broader strategic and operational terms.

For example, in the Coast Guard, it is referred to as C4&IT–Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Information Technology.

In the Department of Defense, they often use the term C4ISR–Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance.

According to GovTech Magazine, some public safety agencies (i.e. law enforcement and firefighting) often use another version of this, namely 4CI–Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence.

The article provides some simple straightforward definitions for these (although perhaps skewed for first responders), as follows:

“- Command: The authority and responsibility for effectively using available resources, and for organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling personnel and equipment to fulfill a mission.

Control: The ability to issue orders or directions, with the result that those directions are carried out.

Communications: The most essential element. Communications between responders on the ground and command staff are critical to ensure that both groups have a common operating picture of the situation.

Computers: They process, display and transport information needed by commanders, analysts and responders. Today this increasingly includes mobile devices, such as laptops and smartphones.

Intelligence: The product of the collection, processing, integration, analysis, evaluation and interpretation of all available relevant information.”

While these capabilities are all critical to mission performance, I am not sure why we have all these variations on the same theme, but at least, we all agree on the 4Cs or is it C4?

>Situational Awareness and Enterprise Architecture


EA is a tool for situational awareness and planning to drive modernization, transformation, and improved results. Enterprise architecture helps us as organizations to be more aware of our business and technology resources, desired outcomes, and ways to link resources/investments to results.

As far as mankind can remember, we have always looked to plan ahead to manage change and complexity. In the times of the pharaohs, people looked to the stars for a sign of what was to come. In past centuries, others have looked into the crystal ball to foretell events and plan accordingly. To many, these rudimentary methods were all they had to gain a semblance control over their lives and a world that probably felt very out of control much of the time.

Now the military has a crystal ball all of its own to deploy to the battleground to provide better situational awareness to our troops, and this is particularly helpful for identifying the enemy in close urban combat, as that which we find ourselves fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, now-a-days.

National Defense Magazine, March 2008, reports that ODF Optronics, a technology company in Tel Aviv, Israel has developed an eye-ball surveillance system “which consists of a hardened sphere that houses a sophisticated camera system and comes with a wireless display unit. Durable eye ball can be thrown over walls, into streets, tunnels, houses, or any other place of interest. Once the sphere hits the ground it establishes a 360-degree video image of the surrounding area and feeds it to operators holding the small display unit. It also features audio and day/night sensors.”

Other models like the omni-directional system, “is a sensor platform that is housed inside a hardened pole that can be mounted on top of a vehicle. It provides a 360-degree field of view for the crew inside…A five camera system is housed inside the cylindrical structure that transmits video images to a rugged laptop sitting inside the vehicle.”

ODF is now working with the DoD technical support working group and DARPA developing new sensors, because they “understood that military forces need to see the world around them.” But the truth is with all need to see the world around us with ever more comprehensive views, better resolution and clarity of image, and enhanced processing to understand what we are seeing. Only with this type of situational awareness are we better able to plan and respond to the world around us.

Like the ODF eye-ball for high-tech military surveillance and reconnaissance, our organizations need the ability to capture and analyze information and develop what Danny Nadri, a retired Israeli Air Force captain calls “quick actionable information.” And enterprise architecture is one important tool to provide us this situational awareness and planning capability.

>Organizational Awareness and Enterprise Architecture


In User-centric EA, we are focused on the end-user and that means that we are not only aware of the needs of the end-users, but that we are organizationally aware as well. This situational awareness includes an understanding of the actors as well the formal and informal structures they play in and the influence they wield.

The Wall Street Journal, 21 August 2007 reports that “one of the competencies in every study of outstanding leaders is their degree of organizational awareness—reading the informal networks, like influence in the organization.…misreading the choke points, sources of influence, or all of those whose rings need kissing, can spell disaster.”

The chief enterprise architect is responsible for identifying the baseline and establishing the target and transition plan. Setting targets and establishing transition strategies that will really be adopted by the organization (and hence really work) requires a keen sense of the organization, the stakeholders, and the networks (formal and informal).

You can’t just plop a plan down and say “here it is, follow it!” Instead, the plans and strategies must truly reflect the people of the organization, their needs and requirements, and be accepted by its power brokers at all levels.