How can I be grumpy at a tech conference? Well, it’s not one of my familiar conferences. That one’s next week, but I’m not going. We’re moving off of Notes, though a part of me continues to bleed yellow. So, I’ve been stomping around, feeling a little grumpy about having to give up my familiar technology and attending conferences with my friends.
The best thing about technology conference is… technology! So, I saw a session with the relatively boring title of “Real Time Data Analytics to the Edge”. OK, I admit, tossing in the word “Analytics” is what caught my eye, because it’s a buzzword. When I look at horse racing, I dive deeply into the data and use analytics to help me understand the possible outcomes and their likelihood. The description sold it a bit better:
Speed of command and safety is a top priority for governments. Delivering on the intelligent edge is made possible by Microsoft Azure. The “edge” is where the operational action lives and is ever present at the very skin of an organization. It’s the convergence of compute, connectivity, and cloud. The intelligent edge is about enabling operations, collaboration, and IoT sensor fusion amongst responders and far forward commanders yet leverages centralized services to augment decision making where the decision space is measured in minutes and in worst case scenarios, seconds. Blueforce Development and Dejero will show how sensor fusion, cognitive services, and mobile connectivity put the power of actionable intelligence in the hands of the frontline users, powered by Microsoft Azure, in real-time.
This still doesn’t convey the coolness of the technology involved.
Go back with me, if you will, to Aliens and sit down with Lieutenant Gorman, commanding his squad of Colonial Marines. Each of your Marines is wearing cameras and sensors to feed back information to their commander. Unfortunately, there’s too much data for him to handle and his lack of experience contributes to his failure. Nonetheless, what cool tech! He can see what any of his Marines can see. He can monitor all of their vitals. He should even be able to pick up movement around them from the sensors.
What BlueForce does is take all that data and make it manageable. I remember taking a course in management way back in the day and among the best ideas was “management by exception”. I use this all the time in software development – I want the system to only notify me when something’s broken. I also like to get occasional messages that just remind me that the system is running (since it might not be able to send a notice if a whole lot is broken!) BlueForce lets the user, in this case our neophyte Lieutenant, take the feeds he wants and arrange them the way he wants to know what’s going on.
In the “It’s a small world” category, the CEO of BlueForce Development is Michael Helfrich, who was Director of Product Development for Knowledge Management at Lotus. So, we were able to share stories about Raven, which I was never able to get any of my customers to buy, since no one could afford $100,000 in 1999!
Among the feeds was the Virtual Surveillance Partner (VSP) by 6-Watch. It uses a combination of Lidar and video to perform threat detection (helping sort out what’s important and what’s not) and provide audio cues about those threats. There are far more applications to this set of tools than just providing our Colonial Marine Lieutenant with real-time threat assessment and asset management, but I suspect anyone reading this is going to hop onto their website to see more about it. (Think “law enforcement” and “forensic evidence”.)
So, the good Lieutenant would have been able to put his VSP up on the screen, select which video feeds matter, perhaps enabling alerts for various vital stats feeds from his Marines and figure out how best to command the situation. After all, he had 38 drops (simulated) to practice it.
It’s some pretty cool stuff and the President of 6-Watch, Eric Gahagan, took some time to chat with me as I was looking at their system in action on the conference floor. Eric spent a long time with the Massachusetts State Police, so the implementation of their products is near and dear to his heart.
As much as I struggle with being an “outgoing introvert”, meeting the people who are behind the technologies and making connections has always been the great benefit of going to tech conferences. I can’t say that I’ll ever personally have a use for the technology, but it’s pretty cool.