Intelligence: June 2, 2005


As video cameras, and digital storage devices (like the iPod), grow smaller and cheaper, they have become useful as a military intelligence tool. The latest example of this is a lightweight video camera that can be attacked to a helmet, and the video stored on a 30 gigabyte hard drive the size of an iPod. That provides enough storage for 2-46 hours of video (depending on the resolution.) 

It was civilian security personnel, former military people, who first started doing this sort of thing. Small vidcams attached to the dashboard, were used to photograph a mission. Reviewing the tapes later would often reveal an attempted attack, or some other danger that needed to be studied, and dealt with in the future. Now a British company, Double Vision (DV), is producing wearable vidcam systems for police, journalists, military personnel and athletes. The DV systems can be worn via a headband type device, with the iPod size storage device stuck in a pocket. The vidcam picks up sound and video, and DV provides cables and software for quickly transferring the material to a computer for editing or viewing. The Double Vision unit also comes with a hand held flat display for checking what is being recorded. This is useful when you want to get specific details. For the most part, though, what you see is what you are getting.

The DV gear costs from $1-2,000, and some troops have already improvised similar gear. Actually, this was first done by an enterprising journalist back in 2003, who got some troops to attach a lipstick vidcam to his helmet, sending the video to a tape recorder attached to the soldiers belt. Some pretty scary, exciting and profane video resulted when the soldier got involved in a firefight. 

The U.S. Army actually plans to equip all combat troops with this sort of capability, some time in the future. The idea is to have all these vidcams connected via a battlefield internet, so that an individual soldier can punch a button on his control panel (worn on the forearm), and send what he sees back to headquarters, or just other members of his unit. Having someone running a vidcam during a patrol serves another purpose, a more detailed memory of what was seen and heard. Once back from a patrol, the troops can go through the video and grab material that might be of use to the intel people, or you want to keep for future reference (like the next time you patrol that neighborhood.) The troops take quickly to this sort of thing, and its changing the way combat units operate.


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