Forecast & Outlook: The principles of ‘situational awareness’ based on perception, comprehensive and projection might soon support a wide range of applications that reach far beyond military operations and crisis response. It is a user and outcomes-centric systems approach that could integrate anticipated advances in mobility, ‘smart’ infrastructure, learning systems, policy-making and business intelligence.
Situational Awareness systems might have what it takes to create demand for integrating a wide range of emerging disruptive technologies that include: low cost sensors, IT architecture (network/virtualization), video, robotic vision, gaming, 3D/geospatial modeling, physical and virtual augmentation, autonomous systems, simulation software, location based service, social web lifestreams (by activity/sentiment), and expert software learning systems. Yes, this is a grab bag of buzzwords (forgive me!) but Situational Awareness (‘dashboard’) platforms will require significant integration to make it useful for users in a networked world.
Managing Expectations & Changing Assumptions:
From Pilots to Drivers to Politicians to Businesses to Learners
Situational awareness will certainly raise red flags of ‘Big & Little Brother‘ by professional and part time conspiracy theorists, but as it becomes more understood and applied by individuals, I believe it will cultivate our capacity for increased awareness, mindfulness, and focus in an age of information distraction. It will force learners to expand their collection of inputs, selectively identify their filters used in synthesizing and sense-making. And help to mainstream systems thinking and the imperative of understanding structure, relationships and feedback loops in a globally interdependent world.
Yes, this is my wishful thinking!! But we are in fact seeing a mainstream cultural transition between the ‘anonymous web‘ (Nobody knows I’m a dog!) and a more ‘social web‘ (‘Most people know I’m a dog)! Why shouldn’t web users continue to evolve alongside the web as it enters its next phase of being embedded inside the physical world?
To become as mainstream as today’s ‘social web‘ behavior and expectations, situational awareness (SA) systems will have to stretch beyond historical and current day applications that lead to potential confusion that it might be just a code word for advanced ‘surveillance’. And I am certain that more accessible concepts like ‘dashboards’ will emerge to properly frame and engage mainstream world!
Situational awareness is most commonly divided into three stages of awareness and behavior that allow us to see wider, deeper and further:
- Level 1 – perception of elements, relationships and structure in a given environment
- Level 2 – comprehension of the real-time situation
- Level 3 – projection and anticipation of possible outcomes into the future
The historical SA paradigm of perception, comprehension and projection is most familiar to military pilots (“lose sight, lose fight“) engaged in training and combat based situations. In the recent years military leaders have extended SA approaches from pilot training to field troops navigating a combat theater of small networks distributed across remote rural regions and embedded inside challenging urban environments. SA principles have also been embraced by crisis response teams seeking to create an information architecture for relaying real-time information across a temporarily disabled system.
Situational Awareness is the ultimate user-focused experience layer for infrastructure assessment and utilization. Now what happens when we expand our definition of infrastructure to engage users and where might SA principles be applied? How might we imagine the positive decentralized benefits of situational awareness in non-military applications?
Six Areas to Explore:
- Driving/’Connected Cars’
- Political Transparency / ‘Civicware’
- Geospatial / Real-time for Policy-making and Public Safety
- Infrastructure Management
- Learning Systems
- Business Intelligence
#1 ‘Connected Cars’, Smarter Drivers
The most likely near-term application of situation awareness systems will experienced inside our cars! Instead of engaging military pilots, we will engage civilian drivers to increase the safety and flow of our roadways!
Situational awareness software is likely to play a major role in the changing driver experience. Automakers are already beginning to integrate ‘sensing’ systems inside and outside vehicles based on sensors, radar, and video recognition that relay information to drivers and to other cars. In this future our cars are collecting data and relaying information that will help drivers make better decisions on congested roadways. This era of ‘connected cars’ is likely to make roads safer for drivers and pedestrians, and increase the flow of traffic on our highways. [Telematics examples: Ford Sync; GM OnStar; Kia UVO]
#2 Political Transparency / Civicware
Political transparency is a major driver of change in emerging economies and fledgling democracies. Civicware systems based on situational awareness allow us to gather real-time, onsite information based on a distributed network that is resilient to attack or centralized control. In this light, we can view the situational awareness role that Twitter played in Iran during political protests in 2009 as adding an SA layer of new inputs and on the scene conditions that could never had existed prior to the age of mobile social networks.
Another widely cited example of SA systems in political transparency is Ushahidi – an effort to build a mobile phone based infrastructure for ‘crowd-sourcing’ information that could prevent post election violence based on misinformation (e.g. groups rioting when in reality they are not!) The Ushahidi Engine allows anyone with a cell phone to gather and distribute real time situation information via SMS, email or web or view aggregated data on a map or timeline.
#3 Policy Making / Public Safety
Geospatial visualizations are an emerging platform for communicating information based on place. We can imagine a future in which social support services are based on a greater understanding of data sensed, synthesized, visualized and anticipated in communities afflicted by a wide range of events or socio-economic conditions.
In 2004 Christian Nold released an innovative map-based platform for gathering real-time information on emotional states. His ‘biomapping’ projects can reveal where people are happy, hungry, angry, fearful or sad. Imagine the public policy implications for supporting decision-making, policy analysis, and responses based on this bottom up data collection that can be conveyed on maps!
And let’s not forget about policies that support public safety and enforcement against violent crimes!
In recent years police agencies around the world have implemented gun location directional systems to help them gain real-time situational awareness in an area with detected gunfire. These stories are widely reported in the media, but what happens when there are ubiquitious sensors and mobile phone ‘apps’ that can create an open distributed infrastructure for safety. What happens when community members build their own layers of situational awareness?
What are the implications of lowering the cost of community safety oriented situational awareness systems?
#4 Smart Infrastructure Management
Situational Awareness is at the heart of emerging ‘smart’ infrastructure models that attempt to reveal real-time data and conditions within major infrastructure components for energy, transportation and water. This allows infrastructure operators and users to make better decisions in managing resources and anticipating potentially disruptive events. (e.g. electrical grid failures, peak demand, rush hour) [See PNNL Laboratory Situational Awarness for ‘smart grid’)
#5 Lifelong Formal and Informal Learning
Situational Awareness systems go beyond mere ‘sensing and anticipating’—and can be applied as a tool for learning how to improve our performance in responding to complex systems. SA systems that are user and outcomes centric might find a home in formal and informal learning applications!
Pilots will often train in mock environments to improve their ability to sense. Field troops will train in mock situations that teach them how to protect themselves in hostile environments.
But how might we apply staged-learning and/or scenario based learning to improve learners’ ability to reveal their mental models that guide their responses. How might SA layers expand our desire for more sensing inputs based on real-time information and a stronger understanding of structure, relationships and feedback loops within the environment?
#6 Business Intelligence and Capital Markets
What about the world of business? Both small and large companies are operating inside increasingly complex market environments that are fragmented and shaped by events and rapidly changing conditions (many of which are not currently measurable).
We can already see growth in enterprise solution markets for situational awareness systems such as ‘complex event processing’ and business intelligence ‘dashboards’ and decision support systems. Real-time market situational awareness might indeed offer the biggest return on investment for SA systems.
What is Beyond?
Situational Awareness principles will likely have to be re-framed and re-packaged before mainstream audiences are likely to embrace and adapt systems designed to increase our ability to perceive, comprehend and anticipate.
We are probably a 5-10 years away from mainstream market users understanding and demanding early stage SA capabilities in their everyday world. And 15-20 years away from more advanced systems and wider spread institutional adoption.
And I suspect transportation will be the first market followed by enterprise business intelligence applications.
So I suspect ‘situational awareness’ might be the next big thing for Tweeting web geeks and industry pundits… in 2018?!!
I suspect life in a world of ‘smart, connected’ devices will push SA to the forefront as a way of managing life in this ultra-connected landscape.
In the meantime, I will be looking for the positive applications of SA systems and the potential of a learning culture of systems thinking based on awareness, focus and foresight.
Situational Awareness Resources to Explore: Notable Projects:
- Global Incident Map https://www.globalincidentmap.com/
- BioWatch – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BioWatch
- UK SA Driving Program – http://www.2pass.co.uk/awareness.htm
- Global Seismic Monitoring - http://www.iris.edu/seismon/bigmap/index.phtml
- Cisco-NASA Planetary Skin
- HP Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE) (Thanks @wendyinfutures)
- IBM Smart Planet
Papers / Academic
- Knowledge Structures for Situational Awareness (Learner) http://www.dodccrp.org/events/2006_CCRTS/html/papers/220.pdf
- Situation(al) Awareness (SA) in Effective Command and Control by Derek J. Smith http://www.smithsrisca.demon.co.uk/ http://www.smithsrisca.demon.co.uk/situational-awareness.html
- An Approach to Collaborative Sensemaking Process http://www.dodccrp.org/events/11th_ICCRTS/html/papers/101.pdf
- Inferring High-Level Behavior from Low-Level Sensors http://www.cs.rochester.edu/~kautz/papers/High-Level-140.pdf
- The Knowledge Structure of the Commander in Asymmetric Battlefield: The Six Sights and Sensemaking Process http://www.dodccrp.org/events/2006_CCRTS/html/papers/220.pdf
- USE OF TESTABLE RESPONSES FOR PERFORMANCE-BASED MEASUREMENT OF SITUATION AWARENESS http://web.mit.edu/aeroastro/www/labs/ASL/SA/sa.html
- SA Technologies – http://www.satechnologies.com/
- EchoStorm – http://www.echostorm.net/index.html
- Logos Technologies – http://www.logostech.net/index.htm
- Swarm Micro Aerial Vehicles – http://www.swarmsys.com/index.html
- Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems – http://www.raytheon.com/businesses/riis/
I’m looking for non-military situation awareness companies?!!! Any thoughts?