A recent article from the Wall Street Journal notes that the military is struggling with something many of us face every day - too much data and not enough tools to help manage that information and use it to make good decisions. What's cool about the approach they are taking is that it's right out of "Minority Report". Now, you don't have to be a fan of Philip K Dick to enjoy seeing technology evolve from novels and films to reality.
The technology in question is called "Gesture Technology". If you saw the film, you may remember that Tom Cruise and several other people from the "Pre-Crime" unit were able to view data in a heads-up display. These individuals could move the data, re-arrange the data and view the data by using gestures. While this technology was not prominent in the short story the film was loosely based on, it turns out there is real research behind the gesture technology. What's more, Raytheon, a defense contractor, has been working with some scientists to try to turn this science fiction concept into a reality.
Their target is military commanders near the front lines of battle. Our military has become fairly accomplished at creating and sending data to the front lines and rear echelons. In most recent battles, we have satellites, electronic surveillance planes and many other data gathering and intelligence gathering technologies and teams. The problem arises when we ask a colonel or major with a laptop near the front lines to make decisions and take action on all of this data.
There's simply too much data to evaluate and no strong tools or mechanisms to quickly understand the data and make decisions. Our soldiers and marines have several strong advantages over other groups that we fight, including training, weaponry and unit cohesion. Additionally, we have what should be a huge advantage in intelligence, but we are often unable to use it.
This sounds to me a lot like many front line managers in major businesses. They may not be under fire, or have to worry about being flanked, but they are asked to make many decisions every day with less than perfect information, while knowing that much of the data and information they need is contained in corporate databases. What they lack is the tools to easily access and make sense of the data.
Help is on the way - courtesy of a science fiction movie. Truth can be stranger than fiction.