The “working smarter” concept has been applied in experiments to improve border protection and safeguarding using in-service military equipment and smartphones.
The CSIR annual report for 2012/13 points out that “border safeguarding entails the challenge of overseeing approximately 4 800 km of land border and many points of entry”. This task is entrusted to the landward arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) with assistance from the SA Air Force as well as other government departments including the Police Service, Department of Home Affairs and SA Revenue Services.
The country’s biggest research and development organisation is actively working with SA Army soldiers deployed as part of Operation Corona to improve their lot, in terms of apprehending those entering the country illegally as well as smugglers bringing in illegal goods ranging from cigarettes and perfume through to cosmetics and liquor, without having paid the necessary import taxes.
With active deployments as part of Operation Corona now including the Botswana and Namibian borders as well as South Africa’s borders with Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, the use of technology, in the absence of sufficient feet on the ground, for all-encompassing patrol purposes becomes more important.
This is where the CSIR’s in-field integrative border safeguarding concept has seen rigorous combination testing of sensors, communications mechanisms and networks.
“Practical and applicable, this process supports the SANDF to incorporate existing infrastructure using readily available surveillance technologies to ensure better integration of different platforms,” according to the annual report.
“A first experiment in Ladybrand in July 2012 focused on communication infrastructure integration using largely existing military equipment, better combined for greater patrol coverage and impact.
“In February 2013, a follow-up experiment was conducted in Musina focussing on the use of concept command and control applications in a geographically distributed approach. A CSIR developed web-based command and control collaborator system, dubbed ‘Cmore’, was integrated with smartphone-based mobile applications.
“Cmore helps operators better observe activities and incidents in the field. They can observe operations positions in real-time, receive photographic images, receive instant text messages and map positions. When an incident occurs, a unit is despatched via the system and its progress is tracked on-screen.
“The Musina experiment involved three sites – Musina, Polokwane and Pretoria – with internet-based links between the sites. It involved a range of technologies including unmanned aerial systems capturing video views, cellular phone intercepts, jamming of GPS systems, video and audio conferencing and sharing of remote computer desktops.
“Although these are not new tools in the military environment, this was the first attempt at collaborative planning using video conferencing and software applications efficiently synchronised between remote sites.”
Follow-up experiments are planned, with what the CSIR termed “extensive” SANDF involvement, to further improve the ability of soldiers deployed on border protection and safeguarding.
There are currently 13 companies deployed as part of Operation Corona with two of them making final arrangements prior to taking up position on the Botswana and Namibia borders.
They join the about 2 000 soldiers, Special Forces operators and SAAF elements working border protection along the Mozambique and Zimbabwe borders. This number includes signallers, SA Army Intelligence Formation scouts, SA Military Health Services and support elements such as engineers and mechanics.