by August 21, 2002 0 comments

In the very beginning, there were three drivers of IT innovation: the military, the academic community and the business community. As the use of IT spread, the military as a driver of technology innovation or of the technology markets, faded into the background. 

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent disintegration of the iron curtain lead to drastic cuts in military spending across the globe, starting off the process. The advent of the Internet and the rapid growth of consumer purchases of IT during the end nineties only hastened this process. 

But, it is not as if the military’s interest in technology declined. If anything, it only increased. But, most of the activity went unreported or got lost, in the battle for visibility, to the finely-honed hype machines of various IT and IT-user companies. Now, with the consumer side of the business caught in the throes of a big slowdown, and with security consciousness all over the world on a rise, I would not be surprised if the role of the military as a driver of technology and of technology markets becomes more visible. 

Simultaneously, IT companies are also increasing their courtship of armed forces across the globe. Flip through the pages of any recent issue of Janes Defence Weekly and you will find a lot of familiar faces advertising there–HP, IBM, Motorola,

In parallel, the technology that is being built into the machines of war is fast bordering on the fantasies that were Star Wars and Matrix. Take the case of the avonics equipment of the F-22 Raptor, supposed to be the most advanced fighter aircraft ever built. To quote from the Edwards Airforce Base website run by the US military, the plane has no traditional radio or radar. What it has, is a common integrated processor that emulates these functions. If one of the modules breaks down, another module automatically reloads the software for the program that dies, and takes over that function. The software for the avonics includes 1.7 million lines of code (Windows XP is 45 million lines), 90% of which is in Ada! In fact, they say that this is as much an aircraft as it is a supercomputer!

The Indian army is also reported to have a fairly impressive tech-research program going on. A casual search on the Net threw up papers jointly written by personnel in the Indian Army and the National University of Singapore! The Army also warmed the hearts of the down-in-the-dumps IT industry no end, when they began awarding contracts with the face- off with Pakistan.

In the coming days, do not expect this increased military presence in IT, if I may call it so, to slacken off. If anything, expect to see more of it, for the better, or for the worse.

Krishna Kumar

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