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February 23, 2021

SitaWare beyond the battlefield

 

The SitaWare suite has proven its utility on military operations around the world, but less well known are the benefits that the software brings to assisting with civil emergencies.

SitaWare beyond the battlefield

Militaries are often in the vanguard of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts. Their ability to quickly deploy a wide range of capabilities and operate in austere conditions makes them a crucial tool for many governments.

The demands of HADR missions are complex and can be as challenging as any warzone. Often they require a variety of tasks to be undertaken, such as largescale evacuations, civil engineering, administering medical care, and maintaining law and order, among many others.

Militaries will typically operate with a number of partners, including other armed forces, government departments, and aid agencies. The diverse mission set and often complex organisation of HADR presents a number of command-and-control (C2) challenges.

The Swedish Armed Forces-led ‘Viking’ command post exercise is the largest of its kind in the world. (Försvarsmakten)

 

SitaWare is well suited to supporting HADR missions and civil emergencies, and most recently it has been used by a number of operators to assist in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although not as high profile as its successes in the military domain, SitaWare’s use in this area is well established.

Spain’s Unidad Militar de Emergencias (UME) – a branch of the Spanish Armed Forces responsible for providing disaster relief – is a long-standing SitaWare Headquarters operator and the software is used as part of its emergency management system, with applications including coordinating the response to forest fires and deploying overseas to help with rescue efforts after natural disasters.

SitaWare’s utility in supporting natural disaster relief work was also demonstrated in early 2018, when a HADR Cloud solution developed by Systematic in conjunction with Microsoft was deployed by the New Zealand Defence Force in support of relief efforts following Cyclone Gita, which devastated parts of the South Pacific. A multi-agency team that included representatives of the Defence Force, fire and emergency service, and Ministry of Health, among others, deployed to Tonga and utilised elements of the Cloud service to assist with their work.

The SitaWare Headquarters-based solution – designated Wave Alpha – was tailored for use in HADR missions and accessed via COTS laptops or a web browser. As it was configured as an unclassified information environment, it gave non-military personnel access to SitaWare’s advanced C2 capabilities and enabled them to share information across a broad team.

Into the Cloud

“The ability for SitaWare to be configured for different classifications enables it to be used by a wide range of actors, and not just limited to the military”, notes Hans Jørgen Bohlbro, Systematic’s Vice President of Product Management for Defence, “Furthermore, hosting the software in a Cloud environment minimises the operating ‘footprint’ required, which can be crucial for HADR missions when the response is typically at very short notice and logistics capacity limited.”

The NZ Army, Irish Defence Forces, and German Army have all employed SitaWare to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. While each has found unique and novel ways to use the software for this task, it is clear that SitaWare’s ability to deliver a comprehensive common operational picture (COP) and easily integrate external data and applications has been a boon to them all. 

The NZ Army and Irish Defence Forces have acted as components of multi-agency responses to the pandemic in their countries, as such they have used their experience to build unclassified COPs that can be accessed by all stakeholders. At the same time, they created gateways and restricted COPs that can link the unclassified picture to classified military networks.

In the case of New Zealand, the unclassified Cloud-based COP could be accessed by any of New Zealand’s all-of-government personnel through a web browser.

The NZDF brought a range of data sources into SitaWare, including from the EROAD fleet management application. (New Zealand Army)

 

The COP was configured to ingest and present a wide range of critical data, such as the status of assets and personnel, and incidences of infection. SitaWare’s open architecture has been key to the development of a number of innovative capabilities, such as the introduction of a de facto blue force tracker via the integration of data from the EROAD vehicle management system - a commercially available tool that has been fielded by the NZDF for managing vehicle fleets.

A further highlight for the NZ Army was the rapid development of a new address and location search tool within SitaWare Headquarters, this was able to draw upon all of the different mapping data  used by the stakeholders and created what was described as a ‘Google Maps’ user-friendly way of locating any kind of address.

Third-party apps

As an experienced SitaWare operator the Irish Defence Forces were able to quickly stand up a layered solution that enabled a range of agencies to benefit from the software’s planning and situational awareness (SA) capabilities. Third-party and non-military systems were integrated with SitaWare Headquarters, with ArcGIS and Track24 data feeds among the examples.

The SitaWare suite was used to deliver varying levels of SA, force tracking, and planning capabilities. For example, SitaWare Edge equipped dismounted teams and provided chat and lower level C2, while SitaWare Frontline has been used in vehicle convoys transporting vital stores and equipment, again providing C2, SA, and chat.

Among the most impactful benefits identified was the ability to visualise data and create map overlays in the COP. For example, users have been able to combine census data with that on the location and ‘reach’ of hospitals, in order to identify potential gaps in coverage for those in age groups deemed most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The Irish Defence Forces have utilised all members of the SitaWare suite in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Irish Defence Forces)

 

“The ways in which SitaWare operators have quickly adapted the software for use in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic is testament to the software’s flexibility,” Bohlbro explains, “Its open architecture and APIs have enabled a wide range of third party solutions to be integrated and new applications for SitaWare created.”

In 2020 the German Army was in the early stages of the widespread fielding of SitaWare Headquarters, but recognised the utility that the software could provide, notably in managing personnel and resources. 

A regional command staff was established and a COP containing information on the army’s units created. This enabled requests for assistance to be captured and processed more quickly. Applications for assistance from the army could be submitted by civilian bodies such as health authorities, the Red Cross, or the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief.

The German Army used SitaWare Headquarters to establish a COP that provided information on the status of its units, among other data. (Bundeswehr/Oliver Schmidt)

 

Systematic has also explored the integration of software developed by the company’s healthcare division into SitaWare. 

Columna Flow Capacity Management has been integrated with SitaWare Headquarters to provide a comprehensive overview of the resources available to combat COVID-19, along with hospital status, capacity, and the number and location of patients, among other information.

Several health authorities in Denmark use Columna Flow Capacity Management. The solution is scalable and has utility at a country-wide level right down to individual wards. It is focused on providing information on the number of patients, bed capacity, and available equipment, importantly it provides a visualization of this data that is easy to understand and access. Columna Flow Capacity Management also includes an AI-based forecasting tool that can project bed occupancy numbers and the duration of admissions.

Healthcare solutions

In the civil-military domain, SitaWare Headquarters has for a number of years been used at the Swedish Armed Forces-led ‘Viking’ command post exercise, which is the largest of its kind in the world.

The latest iteration – ‘Viking 18’ – included around 2,500 participants from 50 countries and 35 organisations, distributed across nine sites in Brazil, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, Serbia, and Sweden, where the exercise was headquartered.

The aim of the 10-day event was to train and educate multinational civil and military participants in planning and conducting a UN-mandated Chapter VII peacekeeping operation, with a focus on cooperation and coordination in an unstable environment. The exercise scenario drew on a variety of real-world examples and unfolded across a fictional country. It included a wide range of actors, with challenging issues to deal with, such as humanitarian crises, terrorism, cyber attacks, and organised crime.

The exercise was supported by 20 SitaWare Headquarters servers spread across organisational units and levels, with the system maintaining and distributing the COP from brigade to Joint headquarters levels. SitaWare also integrated with multiple training and simulation systems in order to support the decision-making process.

“We recognise the role that militaries play in HADR missions, and various aspects of the SitaWare suite support these activities,” explains Bohlbro, “Our product roadmap is informed by user requirements, and the tools and features needed for HADR tasks are always in mind.”

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