Hanscom to host Cursor on Target users meeting next week
By Chuck Paone, 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 16, 2009
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Looking to bring together a diverse and constantly growing community of users, the Electronic Systems Center here will host meetings and demonstrations next week for users of the Cursor on Target, or CoT, technology.
The 653d Electronic Systems Wing's Enterprise Integration Division will host the CoT Users conference Sept. 23 and 24. Center Commander Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds will present the kick-off address to more than 200 attendees representing over 50 government and industry organizations.
CoT is a simple, powerful method of communicating situational awareness data, one that doesn't try to do too much, according to Capt. Todd Watson, the program manager.
"CoT focuses on three basic questions: what, where and when," he said.
For special operations personnel and others operating in a battlefield environment, where time is critical and bandwidth extremely limited, only the minimal essential information can be passed and processed. The XML-based template, or schema, undergirding CoT does just that.
It was developed by MITRE in support of ESC following a 2002 charge by then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper.
The general challenged ESC to develop capabilities that allowed different agencies to communicate with each other using existing systems. He also wanted the systems to communicate automatically, with minimal human interface.
The mantra for this machine-to-machine vision flowed from the chief's 2002 speech at the ESC-hosted C4ISR Summit.
"The sum of all wisdom is a cursor over the target," General Jumper said.
Seven years later, Cursor on Target technology has found its way into scores of systems, military and otherwise, said Col. Jeff Hodgdon, the Enterprise Integration Division director.
One of the major uses has been to streamline the process of assigning assets to a target and then passing target coordinates to the asset. CoT does this by greatly reducing traditionally human-intensive, inefficient and error-prone tasks and replacing them with the machine-to-machine interfaces General Jumper called for.
CoT, according to Captain Watson, often functions as a sort of "digital band aid," connecting systems that fail, for whatever reason, to connect on their own. It's also become an essential tool for tracking both red (hostile) forces and blue (friendly) forces.
That tracking capability, combined with the enhanced accuracy provided by removing hand-written coordinates and fat-fingering, means that CoT significantly reduces potential for fratricide.
While the core schema enables transmission of basic essential information, numerous sub-schemas enable more detailed information to be passed. One allows full-motion video feeds to be brought up with the click of button.
CoT is also hardware-independent, so it can operate on almost any IT system, Captain Watson said.
This built-in flexibility, along with its simplicity, has made CoT a favorite for Homeland Security officials and emergency first-responders at the state, county and municipal level. It also has numerous business applications.
These are the reasons this first-ever users' meeting, which will bring so many of these users together, is so critical, said John Jacoby of MITRE, who helps ESC manage the program.
"COT has gone viral," he said. "Because of its success, it's being used in so many places that we've lost track. That's good in some ways and not so good in others. There's a loss of synergy, which we want to recapture."
Next week's sessions will help ESC and MITRE managers "herd the cats," he said.
The sessions will discuss current uses, ongoing developments and set a course for developing a future roadmap. But perhaps the most important component will be feedback from users and the exchanges among them.
"We're devoting one-third of the time block of every speaking session to questions and answers," Colonel Hodgdon said.
Organizers also built in formal round-table discussions and plenty of opportunities for informal discussion.
"We need to get that synergy back and leverage it," Colonel Hodgdon said. "The Cursor on Target community of interest is an important concept. We really do need to learn from each other and build off our common needs and experiences."