Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Microsoft demonstrates portal to improve military logistics

Steve Rogerson
February 16, 2016
To demonstrate how military forces can combine a highly secure portal with advanced analytics to improve their performance, Microsoft has developed a proof-of-concept portal that tracks the logistics of a brigade deployment.
Built on the Microsoft Azure cloud-computing platform, the portal demonstrates how armed forces can obtain the information they need, when they need it, enabling them to make quick, data-driven decisions based on real-time information.
“As defence organisations plan their deployments, it’s critical that they obtain a comprehensive view of their operations,” said Microsoft’s Parul Bhandari. “Only with 360-degree visibility into their military campaigns can commanders be agile enough to respond to changing conditions, rapidly altering their plans as demands dictate.”
From the time an order is received to the time it is executed, Microsoft technology can help military organisations plan, direct, monitor and evaluate the success of their operations. In the case of its proof of concept, for example, a military commander has received orders to move his or her entire brigade from its current home base to another location to prepare for combat training exercises.
“This a great way to show how we (Microsoft) can solve problems that operational commanders face every day by capitalising on the internet of things,” said former brigade commander AT Ball, now Microsoft’s managing director for safety and national security in Asia. “Each asset is either equipped with connected sensors and devices or have had their status updated through the chain of command to give the commander an overall view of the brigade. Microsoft Azure is able to collect, sort, store and present the data on the dashboard to give the commander a powerful decision making tool.”
Here’s what a commander can do with the portal:

  • View orders: The commander receives orders to move the brigade to the training location from within the portal via on-premises Outlook email.
  • Assess operational readiness: Using the planning page of the portal, the commander can see a detailed status of the entire brigade, including every piece of equipment and the operational readiness of each individual unit, updated in real time.
  • Plan the move: The commander can drill down into each mode of transport – air, road, rail and sea – to see what transportation assets are moving, their estimated time of arrival and the current status of each. A map shows the real-time location and status of each asset, including how fast it’s moving, the distance from its destination and a summary of the cargo load it’s carrying.
  • Receive alerts: The commander can receive alerts notifying of issues as they arise. As a weather system develops, for example, Microsoft Azure Machine Learning sends an alert showing that the cargo is being delivered slower than expected due to rough seas.
  • Locate personnel as needed: The commander can use the person search tool to locate specific members of the brigade and see what tasks they’ve been assigned. In this scenario, the commander contacts the relevant personnel to discuss the worsening weather situation. He or she then notifies relevant personnel in the chain of command who tell of a nearby location where the sea-based cargo can be transferred to aircraft and flown to the destination.
  • Supervise the move in real time: The commander checks to see the impact of this change on budget, and then issues the command to ship the critical cargo by aircraft. Through the final days of the operation, the commander automatically generates and sends daily status reports to the chain of command and monitors the dashboard, watching as the transports arrive at their destination and the deployment operation is completed.
  • Evaluate the success of the operation: Once the operation is over, the commander can view a report summarising high-level information about the deployment mission. Using Microsoft Power BI, the commander can also compare the deployment with similar ones in the past to discover trends that might help increase future efficiency.
  • Monitor the budget: The commander can also evaluate the deployment from a financial perspective, comparing what was budgeted to the actual cost. In addition, information is available about what types of operations and transportation methods typically go over budget and why, so the commander can plan better for the future.
“By combining the real-time command and control monitoring of a secure portal with powerful analytical capabilities, defence organisations have the tools they need to visualise and analyse their entire operations in one place,” said Bhandari. “And as our proof of concept demonstrates, this, in turn, makes it possible for militaries to operate far more effectively.”