Soldier notebook serves as intelligence tool

The Tactical Ground Reporting system continues to evolve as it fills a critical information-sharing need

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is continuing to push the development of one of its most highly praised intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tools: the Tactical Ground Reporting (Tigr) system. The Web browser-based, distributed information-sharing tool allows platoon leaders and company commanders to share a wide range of data within a map-based view of their operating area.

DARPA has developed a Web-services interface to connect the distributed intelligence network system to the Distributed Common Ground System — the Defense Department's program to fuse signals, imagery and sensor intelligence, said Mari Maeda, Advanced Soldier Sensor Information System and Technology program manager at DARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office. The office is looking at ways to deploy Tigr in a mobile form for vehicles and commanders on foot.

DARPA began developing Tigr in late 2004 in response to feedback from units returning from Iraq. “Soldiers were conveying that they didn't really have good tools for sharing information on the ground,” Maeda said.

The military services deployed collaborative tools during that timeframe, but they focused on other needs. There were no tools to help collect and share the type of information platoon leaders and company commanders said they needed.

“The information they were interested in sharing was geographic terrain information, human terrain information, as well as events and activities — both blue-force and red-force activities,” Maeda said. Ground troops needed systems that could store data collected during missions and review information about others' experiences in the same area.

Tigr’s interface relies on maps. It uses high-resolution aerial imagery connected to geospatial data to allow users to create a query for information by drawing a shape around part of the map or outlining a route they plan to take. “It brings up anything that's happened in that location, be it events, significant activities, enemy attacks, visits to a school, or pictures or videos taken at locations,” Maeda said.

Because Tigr had to work at command posts — at the tactical edge of the Army’s networks — it couldn’t be a centralized application. So DARPA developed it as a distributed database application, using a network of laptop-based servers deployed throughout the area of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The developers wanted a system that would be user-friendly and easy to operate, Maeda said.

Tigr was not designed to perform a full-blown synchronization across the network. Instead, Tigr servers perform a constant background synchronization of metadata — catalogs of where information can be found — along with text-based data and thumbnails of pictures, pointing back to where the data sits. When someone requests a large piece of data, such as a video, uncompressed picture, or PowerPoint presentation, from a remote server, the information is pulled across the network and stored at each server it crosses, caching it for access by other users later. The synchronization technology, called TIGRSync, was developed specifically for Tigr at DARPA, Maeda said.

Tigr is designed to run on Army-issued laptops, on as basic a configuration as possible, and the client application runs in Microsoft Internet Explorer. DARPA is looking at mobile solutions for use in vehicles or on foot, Maeda said.

DARPA also recently added a Web Services Definition Language connector for Tigr to integrate with the Distributed Common Ground System. The data, with its geospatial reference information, can then be cross-referenced with other intelligence data collected by airborne and ground-based sensors.

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