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Background

When suddenly faced with a (potential) pandemic, such as the recent outbreak of COVID-19, we often find ourselves unable to respond quickly and adequately to the situation. Consequently, this might impair our ability to effectively support our populations and to provide and preserve both stability and security. Finding innovative solutions for the problems leaders and teams of first responders are faced with, will aid them in controlling such a crisis and minimizing its effects. 

During a crisis situation, leaders and teams of first responders must be aware of both the physical and information spaces in which they operate. Therefore, it is important for them to be aware of their surroundings (1), understand how situations in their surroundings will develop (2) and to have a mechanism to choose the optimal course of action to achieve the desired result (3). Respectively, the following questions might be answered (though not exclusively):

1. What is happening? Who is doing it? What information is out there? Where is it coming from? Who is it coming from? What are their motives?

2. What will happen next?

3. What will I have to do to achieve my goal?

As situations get more complex and bigger spaces are considered, it becomes more difficult to monitor the physical and informational environments. Naturally, this makes it harder to anticipate developments and to choose optimal strategies for achieving the mission. 

Furthermore, today’s technologies present increased capabilities to manipulate information, cloak activities, and cloud understanding of situations. This makes it even more difficult to understand what is going on, anticipate what will happen, and decide on the optimal courses of action. These things can severely impact the well-being of a population, or the success of a mission.

 

The Challenge

This Innovation Challenge is seeking innovative solutions that will enable leaders, teams of first responders and information systems to identify false information and mitigate the effects of this information on generating a true common operating picture, predicting behaviors, and supporting decision making. The solutions should consider one or multiple of the following issues:

Situation Dashboard

Leaders need to monitor and understand the environment of a given space of operations (i.e. continent, country, city, and neighborhood). Being able to predict how situations in the environment will develop, facilitates making decisions that are beneficial to their people and ultimately, to reaching their goal. Therefore, we are looking for solutions to: 

•  Gather, sort (e.g. on relevancy, urgency, etc.) and discriminate (e.g. real from fake) information (open source and private) concerning the space of operations. For this challenge, it is important that a large space is considered (big data). The gathered information needs to be presented in a concise and intuitive way, enabling efficient navigation through the information.

• ​Autonomously discriminate between true and false (or trustworthy and untrustworthy) information concerning a specific topic. 

• Predict (possible) developments in the space of operations. Using the gathered information to identify trends and predict developments aids the commander in anticipating the (near) future. Show the effects of the false information on prediction so that commanders may see what courses of action the adversary may be trying to get the commander to select.

• Select the optimal course of action solving a problem or situation in the space of operations. Assume that the possible courses of action are defined.

Team and population support

Additionally, teams of first responders are deployed to support the population or solve specific problems. These teams must be fast-paced and highly focused, whilst maintaining a high level of adaptability. Therefore, we are looking for solutions to: 

• Actively push information to a small team in a non-distracting way. Information that might be pushed is open-source information, intelligence about operations (friendly or not), Unmanned Autonomous System/drone feeds and recent developments. Information should be pushed without risking the team getting detected. 

• Provide a way to get supplies to these teams and to isolated people, through the air, in an urbanized area (i.e. no secure landing zone for large helicopter). The delivery should be fast paced and the time on the ground should be minimized to reduce the risk of getting compromised.