Mobile App for Risk Based Route Planning

Mobile devices such as the iPod Touch and iPhone have spurred the “every soldier a sensor” vision into reality. Inspired by the rapid-transition success of TIGR, we built an Android App - RouteRisk - for risk-based route planning to investigate the design issues involved to support server infrastructure, Web services and soldier-sourced tactical data input requirements. httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz9U1wc7UYM

Current path planning systems such as the US Army’s Battlespace Terrain Reasoning and Awareness – Battle Command (BTRA-BC) involve time intensive terrain analysis computations, and require an expert user with GIS experience and knowledge of terrain analysis. These systems do not provide an easy-to-use web accessible interface by the boots on the ground. As a planning and re-planning system, RouteRisk calculates risk and recommends routes based on soldier-sourced data provided through tactical intelligence and route planning systems like TIGR (Tactical Ground Reporting), DCGS-A (Distribute Common Ground System – Army), and BFT (Blue Force Tracker). And when new intelligence is discovered, like a previously unreported poppy field by a soldier on patrol or an S2, that the intelligence gets pushed out to all units, because the servers and smartphones are connected through the cloud.

RouteRisk leverages our Risk Based Route Planning web service solution developed in earlier projects. Risk-based Route Planning is a Google Maps web service application allowing the user to plan safe routes in Baghdad, Iraq by avoiding known hotspots and predicted hotspots learned from patterns of past incidents. The web service application generates a risk surface from the incident reports using a Bayesian spatial similarity approach. Our Bayesian model learns the causal relationship between attack characteristics (such as attack type, the intended target, emplacement method, explosive device characteristics, etc.) and spatial attributes (distance to proximal features such as overpasses, government facilities, police checkpoints, etc.). For a given region, we use spatial attributes (distance to nearest overpass, major religion, within 300m of district border, neighborhood) as evidence in the model and we perform inference on the data.

By selecting the “Route” tab on the main navigation, the user can easily create a new route plan. The map is launched and the user is instructed to tap points on the map to define waypoints for the route (starting, intermediate and ending locations). To drag waypoints the user would Press-and-Hold. Optionally, the user can also bookmark locations or search for locations by placename (e.g. “Camp Helmand” or “Paktika District”) or grid reference. By pressing and holding down on waypoints, the user can choose among several actions to perform, such as “move waypoint” or “define time window”. Once a pair of waypoints are defined or a new one is added, a route plan is automatically computed and shown using the current routing preferences and selected factors. The user can change the routing preferences by clicking a button that animates the corner of the map to curl up and reveal the routing preferences. The user can select preferences such as “fastest route” or “shortest distance” or “safest route”.

We are currently researching the software architecture design alternatives for adding voice control capabilities to our RouteRisk app.

Military Logistics Summit

We attended IDGA’s Military Logistics Summit held on June 8-10, 2009 in Vienna, VA. The focus of this year's summit is to support major deployment, re-deployment, and distribution operations. Milcord's presentation entitled Risk-Based Route Planning for Sense and Respond Logistics for the Military Logistics University covered the technology behind our Adaptive Risk-based Convoy Route Planning solution. Our presentation had a diverse audience ranging from logistics contractors in Pakistan to Logisticians at large System Integrators, from high level US Army officers to academic researchers. A logistics contractor posed the question: "I love your risk based route planning system. I wish we had a system like this. Most logistics material are carried by private subcontractors like us (under contract to a Prime like Mersk) in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Even if the Army has this system, it won't do us any good." It was an interesting question that shined a light on the lack of information sharing between DoD and second /third tier military contractors in the supply chain, and generated a nice discussion among attendees.

Another interesting question on our presentation was the concern about the predictability of a route. Minimal distance routes are deterministic and pose a security risk because they can easily be determined by the adversary. In contrast, minimal risk route is not deterministic (changes with events on the field), which gives a better protection against predictability by the adversary. The risk surface (computed per road segment) changes with every incident, intel report, weather, traffic, etc., which, in turn, affects the route minimal risk route.

Another question: "If a bridge is blown down the road, how long does it take the Urban Resolve data set to update itself? " This is an issue that even commercial COTS GPS tools struggle with random events like road closings due to construction. Our current solution gives a manual workaround for such conditions by letting the user define an intermediate way point and  dragging the route away from the bridge. Crowd-sourcing can also help address this issue by arming users with power to dynamically update road availability by adding road blocks on their GPS units.  Crowd sourcing also brings about data integrity issues in that user specified changes would not be put into the database as every soldier would have a different viewpoint.

There were several other interesting presentations and exhibitions. Dr. Irene Petrick's talk on Digital Natives and 4'th Generation Warfare generated an active interaction with the audience.  She presented survey results that compare the value systems of Traditionals, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y, articulated where Digital Natives can add value to warfighting, and pose challenges organizational management. On the gadget front, Safe Ports demoed an eye scanner  based on infrared so it even recognizes you through your sun glasses.

Milcord presents Risk-based Route Planning at the Military Logistics Summit

Milcord, LLC. - WALTHAM, MA – Milcord LLC presented and demonstrated its ‘Risk-Based Route Planning for Sense and Respond Logistics’ at the Military Logistics Summit in Vienna VA, June 8 – 10.   The presentation covered the technology behind Milcord’s Adaptive Risk-based Convoy Route Planning solution; an advanced technology demonstration developed in multiple SBIR contracts with the Army Geospatial Center and Office of Secretary of Defense.  Milcord’s system is designed to address concerns about route safety and predictability.  Approaches based on ‘minimal distance’ routes are deterministic and pose a security risk because they can easily be determined by the adversary. In contrast, ‘minimal risk’ route planning is not deterministic (changes with events on the field), which gives a better protection against predictability by the adversary. The risk surface (computed per road segment) changes with every incident, intelligence report, weather, traffic, etc., which, in turn, affects the route minimal risk route. A demonstration is available at Milcord’s public wiki; http://wiki.milcord.com/wiki/Image:Routeplanning.gif. About Milcord: Since 2003 Milcord has been delivering knowledge management technologies and solutions for a range of applications including cyber defense, human and social modeling, geospatial intelligence, and information management. Milcord’s federal customers include Air Force Research Laboratory, Office of Naval Research, Army Research Labs, Army Geospatial Center, Office of Secretary of Defense, Department of Energy, and NASA.  For more information see www.milcord.com.