RealNews

Simulation Software vs. the Terrorists

Cutting-edge programs can both help train rescue workers and help security officials pinpoint weak spots before the bad guys can. A year ago, the Homeland Security Dept., the FBI, and other agencies conducted five-day drills near Seattle and Chicago. As part of this first-ever, national counterterrorism exercise, 8,500 people from some 100 organizations responded to simulated car bombs and biological attacks. Hundreds of “patients” — mostly drama students — showed up at the local hospitals faking flu-like symptoms or cuts and burns. All told, the exercise was a success, but it cost upwards of $16 million and stole precious time from doctors who could have been treating real patients. Wouldn’t it be nice to accomplish the same thing with less cost and less lost time? New simulation and modeling software just might do the trick. Long used for visualizing oil and gas fields or for designing cars, the technology began seeping into homeland security applications soon after the September 11 attacks. The first such products and prototypes, created by the likes of General Dynamics (GD ), Autodesk (ADSK ), and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) are now being put to the test. If these programs do the job, software simulating the aftermaths of terrorist attacks could grow from less than a $100 million market today to $10 billion a year, estimates Charles Foundyller, CEO of Daratech, a Cambridge (Mass.) consultancy. To reach that size, though, the government must first require owners of high-rise buildings and other structures to create electronic schematics of their buildings. These digital floor plans could then be used for more detailed and elaborate training drills. Full Story

OODA Analyst

OODA Analyst

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