Friday, October 10, 2008

European Governments Likely To Change Approach To Sex Trafficking (ISN)

Mercyhurst grad student Brent Pearson has a well-researched analysis concerning changing European strategies to fight sex trafficking on ISN today. His BLUF suggests that European governments are likely to adopt new approaches focused "on attacking the illicit markets for sex traffickers by penalizing individuals who pay for sex from prostitutes, and treating prostitutes as victims of exploitation and trafficking." Interesting reading!

Knowledge Workers And Intelligence (BlogTalk Radio)

Deborah Osborne, of Analyst's Corner, hosted a podcast recently featuring Bob Heibel, Executive Director of the Mercyhurst College Institute for Intelligence Studies (Thanks, Rex!). Bob talked about our program, of course, but also shared his insights into the the present and future of intelligence studies in academe.

Bob started the program here at Mercyhurst some 16 years ago after a long career in the FBI as a Special Agent and, finally, as the Deputy Chief of Counter-terrorism. There are few people who have the depth of operational, intelligence and academic knowledge that he does. It makes him worth listening to on a number of different levels.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ship Tracking Resources (Link List)

The recent stories regarding the Somali pirates piqued my interest in the issue of ship tracking. I did a bit of this back in the day and always thought it was something that would lend itself to a web-based application, so I went looking for it. Lo and behold, there they were -- in droves!

The Automatic Identification System (AIS to the naval types) is used to locate and identify ships. It is in place on a wide variety of ships, including virtually all cargo and passenger ships, and there are a number of sites on the web that track, in more or less real time, the world's movement of cargo and people over the water. It does not appear to be used by military vessels but I would appreciate some insight in the comments from any reader who spent more time on the water than I.

While the main Wikipedia article on AIS lists a number of regional free sites, like, and there are some commercial services such as AIS Live and Ship Plotter, I was most impressed by those sites that at least attempted to cover the multiple regions of the world for free. The first,, works by clicking on the map to zoom in and zoom out. Data on the map is limited to general location and sometimes the name of the ship.

Even better is VesselTracker, which covers a large number of mostly European ports and contains better ship data (see screenshot below). VesselTracker also supports an apparently large group of people who like to take pictures of ships, so there is a good bit of additional information associated with the site as well.
My favorite, though, is (sponsored by the University of the Aegean) which provides a live feed of many ships in ports around the world. The amount of data here is phenomenal and the pop-up shots of ships at sea often include details about the ship and a thumbnail picture of it. See the screen shot below but click on it to go to the site.

Finally, if you are more interested in what is inside those ships than where they are, the best source of this data is PIERS. It is a commercial service but I have had several chances to see their product in action and, if you need this kind of data, it is a one stop shop kind of place to get it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Directed Ultrasound Device Creates Virtual Objects You Can "Touch" (YouTube Via Gizmodo)

In case you missed it on Gizmodo last week, Shinodalabs recently demonstrated an ultrasound device that essentially allows you to touch something that exists in a virtual world. It appears from the video below that once the system (involving an ultrasonic generating pad and a camera) is set up, the user can interact with objects in virtual space without any additional gear (such as specialized gloves, etc.). For more on the device see also Ultrasound To Give Feel To Games from the BBC.

The Coming Revolution In Intelligence Affairs (ISN)

I have long argued that intelligence, like virtually any discipline whose common currency is information, is undergoing a revolution.

Driven most obviously by the steady and substantial improvements in technology over the last 20 years, traditional models of intelligence have largely failed to keep up.

Beyond improvements in technology, however, I see the convergence of a number of trends that will fundamentally alter not only the way intelligence is done but could also change the common perception of who does it best.

The good people at ISN asked me to put all these thoughts into writing and you can see the results here.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Modern Day Canister Shot (LiveLeak via Gizmodo)

Gizmodo recently featured a slow motion video on LiveLeak of an anti-personnel round fired from a tank. A few years ago I had a chance to see a re-enactment of some artillery action at the Waterloo battlefield. I can understand why infantry dreaded canister rounds then and the very end of this video shows why they are even more feared today.