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16 January 2008

New technologies for facilities characterization

We recall – and not all too fondly - the early days of attempts to create architectural CAD renderings of target facilities. This was a clumsy process, which almost always required an engineer of some description to be involved, and frankly created an end product that most consumers didn’t see as anything more than a low resolution graphic. To be sure, there was always the bragging rights of adapting a new system to a classic target, but on any given day we preferred a good graphics artist with a keen eye for perspective and proportion far better. Kind of like architects themselves, really, given their preference for covers showing artist’s concepts of buildings rather than displaying the old blueprint style plans. Newer generations of architectural software have apparently made this task easier, but have not been as enthusiastically explored.

But a new technology may change that, by bringing back a level of interaction with the system that the insulating layer of engineering specialization took from the CAD models. We are already on record as being fans of the concepts behind multitouch style screens – especially in their as on just fictional style incarnations (courtesy of the futures studies folks). There appears a lot more to be explored in the space, though, as new applications are continually popping up that offer to reconceptualize human computer interface for a variety of tasks across the intelligence profession.

The latest incarnation that has come to our attention promises a “virtual” view of factories – and in particular, aggregate views of systems data for reactions that cannot be seen directly. One can readily imagine the utility such a system would have for those engineers and analysts attempting to assemble a composite view of a competitor’s industrial processes – or an adversary’s chemical or biological weapons production facility. The key to the technology’s innovation in our view is not the S&T solution, although this could indeed be valuable, but rather the engagement with a high fidelity visualization that the multitouch screen (and its follow on evolution) could bring. We strongly believe that innovations like this are vital in opening up the more arcane collection and analytic disciplines to all source generalists – and more importantly, the intelligence end user – in ways that graphs and pictures of CAD renderings could not.

We look forward to the day – hopefully sometime very soon – when we might be able to host a briefing around such a table screen, discussing some hard target with a consumer that can literally get their hands (and heads) around the issue. We think, however, that in this our counterparts in the commercial sector might lead the way, but if nothing else the use of such visualization techniques in competitive technical intelligence might provide an excellent example to reference when building out an acquisition justification elsewhere in the community.

h / t Smart Mobs

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