We now see a plethora of civilian technologies adapted for military and law enforcement applications. The announcement that raised eyebrows a few years ago was by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the USA about a project which would adapt commercial video game technologies for training soldiers and for building situational awareness in areas where soldiers are to be deployed in the year. In 2009, The US Dept. of Defense announced its intent to purchase approx. 2500 Sony Play Station 3 Gaming console, to convert them from gaming consoles for teenagers into a highly advanced “Distributed networking super computer system”. Way back in 1993, when the blockbuster game “Doom” was introduced, the army started using modified and adapted versions of it for training purposes. But the difference between then and now is that these simulations earlier, were more realistically programmed on the military training versions. Whereas presently, the civilian segment, craving reality with a much larger market and budget higher than the military segment, applies greatly detailed textures and reality than a 100 million USD budget. Since armies spend a fraction of their budget on training, and even a smaller fraction of that on simulators, a typically large military budget for such applications would be approx. USD 50 million, over a five years period. In comparison the “Call of Duty” gaming franchise has invested over 450 million USD till date in development of their gaming engine and titles.
Similarly, when it comes to communication devices, modern mobile phones have more computing power than most desktop computers. All over the world, Police and paramilitary forces are increasingly using mobile phones to increase efficiency in discharge of their duties. Several companies offer solutions for beat policing, intelligence gathering, VIP protection and evidence gathering using nothing more than a mobile phone and some strong mobile encryption for data security
In the current scenarios of rising threats, where terrorists and insurgents all over the globe, plot and plan to attack where it is least expected ,it is in the hands of the common man to be vigilant and be the eyes and ears of the law. The tragic Boston Marathon bombing , is yet another illustration of the general public photographing and video recording evidence perhaps ,as it unfolded. This data just needs to be made available to the law enforcement authorities to assist in their investigations.
Given that the mobile phone is one of two things that a person always carries, the other being his wallet, the mobile phone is the best device for the job. EyeWatch OSIG is a service that does just that, irrespective of what the user is currently doing on his phone. By pressing a simple combination of keys, the user can instantly record any suspicious activity and send it to the relevant authority along with a geo –tag of the location of the recorded event. It would be most valuable for the cop on the vigil.
Eyewatch was first developed as a personal security tool for private citizens, but has over time evolved into the perfect tool for POSIG (Physical open source intelligence gathering ) The Victoria Police in Australia have successfully harnessed the power of social networking and are using Facebook to power their project “ Eye Watch” for reporting crime and issuing advisories to their citizens. This project, has no connection with EyeWatch referred to earlier in this paper and it is a coincidence that it is named similarly. Apart from video games, gaming consoles and mobile phones and even actual toys have made their way into the arsenal of law enforcement authorities in certain countries. Companies like “Parrot and Wowee”, manufacture drones and robots with video streaming capability, although not to military specifications but are capable of playing a limited role in operational intelligence gathering, due to the standoff potential in the robotic devices. Several companies in eastern Europe and other areas have developed solutions by reinforcing such “Toys” with bullet proof armour, super charged servo motors and even weaponry such as semi automatic “Assault Rifles and Incendiary Devices”.
Unfortunately the race for dominance in technology in the civil sphere is driven mainly by profit. Thus,technology previously available only to military and intelligence agencies, is slowly becoming accessible to not only civilians, but also to anti-social and anti-national groups. We now have an undesirable asymmetry in systems between law enforcement agencies and both, terrorist outfits as well as insurgents. Devices like the “Parrot Drone’, which is an “I” phone controlled mini UAV, if reinforced and tweaked/ coupled with an assault rifle could change the entire equation between anti national elements and law enforcement agencies worldwide.
We could, in the near future, reach a situation, portrayed in numerous science fiction movies, where wars will be fought with robotic devices. Whilst it may reduce casualties of war, but would have horrific ramification for homeland security. It is only logical, at some point that avid video gamers who clock over 1000 hours a year on games like “Call of Duty” each year, would one day be recruited to operate “WarBots” and “Robotic Assault Vehicles”.
ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) are already a reality in most countries and increasingly being used in various theatres of combat, from precision air strikes, to reconnaissance in the air ; demining operations as well as surveillance on ground and under water. Importantly, most of the world is moving towards a COTS (Commercial Off the shelf ) approach and a lot of these equipment controlled by HIDs (Human Interface Devices) would be easily available. They are no different from the HIDs used in video game consoles from Microsoft and Sony. Lets hope that in reality, just like in the videogames, the good guys always win in the end.
The author is the Director, Indianeye Security