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Battle-Testing Tech

For 11 days in June, the U.S. military will test cutting-edge technology that could be used on the battlefield--and perhaps in business.
Also in the spirit of interoperability, Prosodie Interactive Inc. will demonstrate its U.S. Coast Guard-sponsored system as a way for military commands and civilian first responders to create an emergency alert and communication network. The system ties a variety of communications devices--desk, cell, and home phones, pagers, BlackBerrys, faxes, and PCs--so calling a key official at one emergency number will try all those devices. "We take all of your infrastructure and unite it," says Prosodie VP Keith Jentoft. "If one channel is blocked to you, it will find another."

Prosodie sold similar technology to the Louisiana State Police. CWID marks the company's first test in connecting international users. "We're linking a lot of disparate commands that don't typically communicate with each other," Jentoft says. The system is probably "overkill" for most companies, he says. Still, its alerting capabilities might suit some businesses such as an airline that must pull together a core team for accident investigations.

Microsoft's lone entry at CWID is designed to establish secure information transfer among coalition partners. The system uses Active Directory Federation Services--which will be available later this year in Windows 2003 Server Release 2--along with Live Communications Server, a modified version of Address Book, and Rights Management Services. Sponsored by the Australian government, the system is meant to accelerate a mission commander's ability to receive and act on intelligence by securely disseminating it to commanders and fighters with appropriate security clearances. Most of the technologies are already available, but it's how they're being used that will interest coalition partners and, likely, the private sector. "Any business that has a requirement for mission-critical environments or the interoperability of applications or communications would be interested" in the trial, says John Hewie, principal technology specialist with Microsoft Canada and Microsoft's global lead for CWID.

For businesses, the event is most useful if they're willing to apply a bit of imagination to what's presented. "It's a question of identifying crossover technologies," says Herbert Strauss, a Gartner VP and principal national security analyst.

CWID's 11 days of technology evaluations are sure to accelerate technologies bound for the front lines. "Some technologies may emerge as superstars, and if we can find a way to field them, we will," Lebiedz says. And don't be surprised if some of what works makes its way to the business market, too.

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