No one can dispute that the defense industry is the undisputed king of jargon. After 15-years in defense, my senses have been carefully trained to hone in on opaque terms of art. So it was with great interest that I recently learned a new piece of Silicon Valley jargon, SoLoMo, which stands for Social, Local, Mobile and refers to an integrated class of technologies and services that drive how consumers discover, interact with, and create digital content. The SoLoMo idea dovetails with what Gartner Research has identified as one of the top ten strategic technology trends for 2012: Contextual and Social User Experience. “Context-aware computing uses information about an end-user or objects environment, activities, connections and preferences to improve the quality of interaction with that end-user or object. A contextually aware system anticipates the user’s needs and proactively serves up the most appropriate and customized content, product or service.”
I am convinced that this concept will drive the future of tactical intelligence. As intelligence data sets continue to expand at exponential rates, it becomes harder and harder for tactical users to manually discover the content that matters to them. Leveraging networks of socially interconnected peers and location-based filters, users can quickly survey the mass of intelligence data and discover relevant information and digital services that meaningfully correspond to their specific operational context.
Whereas the current tactical intelligence paradigm might require a soldier to laboriously search for and query a remote database to retrieve an image of his current operating location, SoLoMo will enable a soldier to leverage a peer network to quickly identify, for example, a wide-area motion imagery (WAMI) service that, once subscribed to, will automatically disseminate motion imagery corresponding to the soldier’s current location.
If this sounds like a bit of a technical stretch, think again. Back in 2005, the Army Technical Operations Support Activity (TOSA) implemented a WAMI-based imagery architecture that used the 802.11-based Inter-Brigade Communications System, TactiComp mobile devices, and Blue Force Tracker information to transmit a custom 2 Hz-updating image chip to ten independently operating units based on their specific locations. The custom images were tuned to reflect a 100m radius around each unit’s operating location and omit the area outside of this radius. Ultimately, TOSA was directed to turn off this imagery dissemination service as the higher-ups felt that putting custom real-time imagery in the hands of soldiers violated the tactical chain of command. But that’s another story for another day.
So, I guess you could say that DoD was an early pioneer of SoLoMo (or more accurately location-based services). We just didn’t invent the catchy lingo. But like so many other transformative innovations birthed in defense, this one died in infancy. After being refined in the commercial marketplace, I predict that this innovation will reemerge in DoD to forever change how soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines discover and synthesize tactical intelligence data.