Monitoring the impacts of Talisman Sabre 2011

Posted by on Mar 20, 2012 in Blog, Case Study | 0 comments

Talisman Sabre 2011

The Marines arrived in-country the night before.  Suffering a good dose of jet-lag, they joined their Australian counterparts for six hours of training in the new data capture system they were to use for the next month.  Many will be isolated with no assistance.  “Ease of use” and “reliable” just got serious.

The Brief

The brief was straight forward.  Enable military personnel to record environmental impacts during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2011.  Involving 22,000 troops, 18 sea vessels, 25 aircraft and 1,500 road vehicles, the exercise is managed on a ‘no footprint’ policy.  All exercise materials, equipment and debris are removed, and all disturbances, e.g. tracks, ditches and detonations, rehabilitated.

In partnership with AECOM, Rhino Software was tasked with providing a field based, environmental monitoring system, with the following capabilities:

  • Record pre and post exercise inspections of pre-identified sites.
  • Record details of  individual environmental impacts.
  • Allow personnel to operate in all exercise locations across Australia.
  • Allow Command visibility of all incidents in near real time, regardless of incident location across Australia.
  • Allow data manipulation and ad-hoc report generation by the Environmental Management Group.
  • An easy to use system, requiring minimal training.
  • Capable of operating in remote rugged environments for extended periods.

 

The Solution

There is no doubt that the current generation of Smart Phones set the benchmark in easy to use technology.  It was considered that many personnel would already have used an iPhone or Android device, and those that hadn’t could learn to operate one with minimal effort.  Coupled with a suitable hard case, they fit the bill.

A custom “app” was developed, with inspection types and categories closely aligned with legislative reporting requirements, to ensure that relevant information was captured.  The app was built from an HTML5 foundation, allowing the same interface to be used on a desktop, laptop and the smartphone, eliminating additional cost and training requirements.

All data (information and images) and reporting interfaces were centrally managed using Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.  This ensured that the data and reporting were available to all authorised users, regardless of their location.  It also allowed smartphone’s to synchronise their data any time they were able to establish an internet connection.  As would be expected, when no connection was available, new and edited inspections were stored locally until next connected.

As inspection teams would be deployed to areas with no power for up to a week at a time, power management was dealt with through the supply of solar charging back packs, additional spare batteries and vehicle chargers.

 

The Deployment

It was evident from the first time personnel started using the smartphones that the technology was a success.  Even those bemoaning computers and anything technical over a beer on the eve of the training, were later referring to the system as Gucci gear (a compliment), and demonstrating it to anyone who would listen.

Over the course of the exercise, five teams drove 15,940 km to complete 261 inspections, containing 823 photos.

Due to the secure cloud based data storage and reporting, progress was monitored in near real time by multiple parties across Australia.

Although the system was developed as an environmental reporting tool, it’s flexible nature enabled it to become the primary incident response tool when disaster struck.

Following the exercise, Mr Travis Collins of the Department of Defence named this project the most successful deployment of environmental data collection technology in support of the Talisman Sabre series to date.

While the project success was truly satisfying, my personal highlight must surely have been the people I got to know, both Australian and American, during the project and exercise.  It’s those card games, connections and conversations that will live with me for a long time.

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