NFL technology is in play on the battlefield

The idea of the military tapping replay technology used by the National Football League to manage the fast-growing volume of battlefield video shouldn’t be overturned, GCN Lab director John Breeden writes.

Don’t you just love Monday Night Football? The excitement of the National Football League, the glitz and the celebration of two NFL teams bashing the heck out of each other to move the ball forward for our amusement is not to be missed. And, unlike Major League Baseball, which lets bad calls stand even though everyone in the entire freakin’ world knows they’re wrong, the NFL has instant replay to make sure the referees' are making the right calls. It’s just one more reason why baseball will continue to lose fans while football has no such problems.

And the military is taking notice. Although not perfect, instant replay makes the NFL more accurate. We are almost never left to wonder if someone crossed the goal line, or made a catch with both feet in bounds, or stepped out of bounds. A lot of times the fans know how a call will go before the referees because we’ve watched the replay a bunch of times while it’s all being sorted out. That same technology is now being brought to the modern battlefield.

Harris Corp., which does a lot of work with professional sports teams and made the NFL instant replay possible, is working with the military to bring that same technology to war. In fact, Live Science is reporting  that the technology has already been deployed to several bases around the world.

How it works is that there are a lot of cameras watching a modern battlefield. Some are set up at bases, some are carried by soldiers or mounted on vehicles, and some are high in the air in our armada of drones. These can be high level HD cameras or even a cell phone. What the new system does is tag each frame being taken by all those cameras based on the date, time and location. Then a computer compiles all the available film for an event, such as a skirmish with Taliban forces.

And the system is smart. The military can watch a battle and then switch to a better angle to observe a kill being made in better detail. Tactical mistakes made by combatants can be analyzed and prevented in the future. Even the audio from a battle is searchable. Analysts can search for “bomb” or “IED” or some other term and zoom into whoever said it, possibly gaining insight into how enemies think and fight.

Apparently the system is still in its infancy, but will only grow as more and more cameras are deployed to the field, both purposely installed ones to make use of the battlefield instant replay, and those on drones that just happen to be in an area that suddenly heats up. John Delay, director of strategy for Harris’ government solutions business unit, told Live Science that “In the next five to seven years, we think this will become a full-blown enterprise across the defense community.”

Obviously, this type of endeavor is quite serious, and anything that helps out our troops is a good thing. But I can’t help but think that if they added some military cheerleaders to the sidelines, you would have a pretty good show. Given the way baseball is going, this new battlefield sport would probably become a lot more popular.