With a new national defense strategy that focuses a move away from counterterrorism and an emphasis on China and Russia, it’s not surprising that Russia was the subject of two of our most-read stories this year. After all, a different type of conflict requires a rethinking of the technology necessary to win those battles.
But consider these topics that also made our most-read list for 2018: the popular running app Strava, autonomous robot swarms and Insane Clown Posse. Savvy futurists may have predicted one of those, but no one could have guessed two or three of those subjects would create such a conversation.
Here are C4ISRNET’s five most-read stories of the year:
As facial recognition and biometrics become a more reliable tool for the Department of Defense and base security personnel, savvy Twitter users may have found a hole. Facial recognition software, in its present form, is unable to identify fans of hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. It turns out that the unique style of facial makeup worn by members and fans of the band, also known as Juggalos and Juggalettes, may be the perfect camouflage to stump identification software.
Where do troops at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey like to jog? Around the nuclear weapons storage sites, says a heat map of fitness paths from data tracking app Strava. Sourced from the native GPS data on users' smartphones and watches, Strava Labs produced a global heat map, and with a click of a button and a minute on Google, anyone can find where on a military base it’s likely that people like to jog. But that’s where the trouble began. The paths of any group of armed people running security with Strava could be found online with relatively little work and that’s where the trouble began. While it might be of special interest to those tracking the activities of the Pentagon, it’s relevant to anyone tracking any military. Soon after Strava published the data, the Pentagon cracked down on users sharing data. Even Patrick Shanahan, then the deputy secretary of defense, acknowledged he stopped wearing a Fitbit.
While the United States, Japan, South Korea and North Korea all agreed that a North Korean missile test in July 2017 was an ICBM, one country did not. Spoiler alert: It was Russia. Russia instead claimed the missile was only an intermediate range (and not intercontinental) ballistic missile. Why is this a problem? Should North Korea launch a Hwasong-14, Russia would be unable to see the smaller ICBM as what it actually is, and in what would invariably be a tense hour, might misread actions and intentions after that point.
The Uran-9 looks like a tank in miniature ― 30mm cannon on a turret on top of a small tracked body. But unlike the armored beasts of war seen on battlefields for over a century, there’s no human nestled inside. According to statements published in Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti, Deputy Minister of Defense Yuriy Borisov confirmed that the country tested Uran-9 robots in Syria.
An experiment by a team of researchers in Spain, the UK and the Netherlands posits a simple question: Robotic swarms scan as intense, complex things, but what if people can engineer them to work together as simply as cells in organic matter? The potential implications of cheap robots that can communicate and coordinate as effectively and simply as demonstrated here could be huge. Everything from structure reassembly to patterns of self-healing armor to autonomous scouting clusters could potentially be derived from studies like this. Watch a video to see how it works.