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By Avi Yariv
Command and Control systems are the brain and heart of most of the modern complex systems worldwide. The ability to Monitor (watch), understand, take decisions and act accordingly – is an imitation of our daily life behaviors.
The rapidly changing and growing technology world, combined with the fast tempo of events and crucial decisions that have to be made – are making it more and more difficult for managers, in all fields, to stay relevant and effective with their decisions and conduct.
Like in many other cases, the Command and Control technology accelerator was armies world-wide – the expectation from modern commanders are impossible. They are expected to make life-critical decisions, with only some of the required data available (and even this data – not accurate and maybe not even decisive), in a growing tempo of events. These challenges pushed the requirements for automatic tools for reliable data gathering, effective decision making support and data sharing (including clarifying “commander’s intent”). Another important requirement was sharing information and rapid staff work within a headquarters and among remote echelons.
The defense companies understood very fast this “golden egg”, a capability being so important to the commanders, connecting and controlling all the different devices (sensors, platforms, weapons, computer networks, radios, …) – An army that acquires its C2 (AKA “C4I”, “C4I-STAR”, “C3I”) system from a specific company, enters some kind of a “Catholic” marriage. Every big defense integrator and defense technology provider had developed its own C2 system and application.
The immigration from the defense world to the Security (“Homeland Security”) field was inevitable. All government agencies, police stations, municipalities – are working in a similar methodology. Defense companies entering the Security market had adjust these concepts and technologies to the Security world, and Security integrators had developed their own applications (e.g. P-SIM).
From a commercial point of view, it was a mixed blessing. Unlike the defense market, the Security market’s profit margins are much smaller, and the Security integrators have different DNA than the defense contractors – less technology, more integration of COTS (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf products) and installations by technicians. The burden of employing software developers was against the companies’ culture, and a cycle of 24-36 month of internal R&D was something “un-heard of”. The problems don’t stop here – when eventually the application was “ready”, it was not “field proven”, and most integrators don’t have enough C2 Application projects capacity to justify this activity on a P&L basis. The product was not fully baked (developed and installed by the same company’s employees) – hence installation and configuration costs were un-proportional to the income and profit.
Software companies were established to enter this gap – providing the integrators with “fully baked”, “field proven” applications. They all failed. An integration company “thinks” differently. The C2 Application is too fundamental in the company’s offering to sub-contract it. From several reasons:
- It connects to all other systems, monitors and controls – the integrator’s key for managing and integrating the complete system – it is a core competence of an integrator.
- From a business perspective – it gives the technology provider too much power over its prime-contractor – the integrator.
- The C2 application is the main interaction between the complete system and the user, the “look and feel” of the integrator and interaction with the customer in defining and designing the human-machine interface are very important.
- The C2 application is a market differentiator between the different integrators (features, past experience, vertical orientation, etc.).
The defense contractors and the security integrators are at a “Catch-22”. They need the C2 applications, but have a problem holding and developing it.
An Israeli company called mPrest systems had developed a “game changing” technology, enabling integrators to have the cake and eat it too. Providing the integrators with advanced, “field proven” application infrastructure, mPrest enables integrators to develop their own application over existing infrastructure, hence shortening developing cycle, mitigating risk and improving cash flow (you pay licenses only once installing, not as internal R&D years in advance). These infrastructures are already installed, being the basis for various application in the defense market (air defense, BMS, Simulators and more), the security market (Safe Cities, Lawful interception) and the critical utilities market (energy, water) by different integrators worldwide.