A hurricane and open standards


The following is an observation I did over some time in the past. Most of my directs and peers know that I do have a fable for the army. In the years after my active service I served as a reservist and now I am in the rank of a lieutenant in the German army. My last service was in November last year in a pan-European division as IT officer.

I observed that even between NATO armies there are still challenges to be met regarding communication and networking. In the army IT has to meet very special requirements. Most of them has been defined during the cold war and are questionable now. Also what is called COTS (commercial of the shelf) has reached a certain quality regarding cryptography and strength that the logical move is to introduce more such devices and software. Not just because it is much cheaper than proprietary material.

The problems faced here arise because different countries have from their history different standards that are hardly interoperable. It is getting worse if not only army divisions but also civil departments are involved. I remember some stories when I helped the German THW – a technical organisation to support local authorities during catastrophes.

During the disaster in New Orleans I remembered my experiences. I am not in the position to comment what was going on there beside that all of us were totally shocked and our hopes are still with the victims. As a German it was a relief for me to see that our THW at least contributed a tiny bit of help.
But I certainly understand why things can go wrong, why transport capacity is waiting somewhere while a few miles away people are waiting for it. Communication and coordination is a problem or still a problem even in the 21st century.

So in my opinion it is about time to define a common standard how to interop internationally regarding communication and data exchange. This is certainly not easy because the organization structures are so different and such alike. I am wondering if there already are efforts being taken towards this direction?? (I will check the IEEE first 😉

But how could this be organized? I mean what basic architecture could such a system have? In my opinion it should work like a market place. Parties offering goods or services and others searching for it. Each party should have an agent who is responsible for “trading” or “buying” material and services. I do not believe that beside basic information like who is offering, when can this be offered, etc. it is possible to define a structured way for such offers (because there are too many possible dimensions) but the market place should bring providers and users into contact so they can talk directly (human-to-human first) and negotiate. Then asking a central point-of-proof for approval and there we go.

This based on COTS, TCP/IP, XML, and such alike... Not aiming to high (reaching the "final" solution but providing a pragmatic solution first hand).

Maybe I am a naïve guy… but for sure there is room for improvement.




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