7th April 2017

Telematics and the war on terror

France, Germany, England, and Sweden – these are not just countries that I have visited recently, but sadly each of these countries have experienced terrorist attacks resulting in over 100 deaths.  My heart is burdened for the victims and their loved ones.  It is a brutal reality to see innocent lives destroyed.  My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

In each of these terror attacks, the primary weapon used was a vehicle, which is obviously not a conventional form of weaponry. I remember listening to the radio before I went to school on September 11, 2001 and hearing the reports about unconventional weapons crashing into the World Trade Centres in New York – shock, terror, and sadness.  What happened after those plane attacks?  Airline security tightened quickly and has continued to adjust policies to prevent terrorist attacks.

10 years after the 9/11 attacks, I commissioned as infantry officer in the US Army.  I spent four years in the US Army with a deployment to Afghanistan.  Terrorists are clever, and they innovate new ways to attack people.  Terrorists create improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to blow up people and vehicles.  The military responded by making technological improvements that helped to minimise the lethal effects of IEDs.  Should we do any less to protect civilians who are not in a war zone?  I may be out of my uniform, but I’m not out of the fight against terrorism.

The question before us now is – how long will it take us to tighten security on vehicles?  Is there is a solution to help mitigate these threats?  I recently completed my master’s degree in business administration at the University of Manchester.  My final project was working with a company called Trak Global.  They use telematic solutions to promote vehicular safety.  The technology that we implement is widely available and used by several companies around the world.  The technology to track vehicular safety has existed long before these terror attacks.  This technology obviously cannot control how drivers use vehicles, but could this technology be leveraged to rapidly alert law enforcement and local citizens of an attack? Absolutely – but who’s doing it?  I’m not aware of anyone who’s currently implementing this solution for police alerts.

The news is reporting that the vehicle in Stockholm that was used for the attack was hijacked.  If I was investigating this attack from a prevention aspect, I would want to know the following:

  • What was the time that elapsed from the vehicle being stolen to the time of the attack?
  • Did the owner and/or law enforcement know that the vehicle was stolen?
  • Was there a tracker on the vehicle? If so, who managed the vehicle?

The answers to these simple questions would provide an enormous amount of insight into one of the fundamental issues in these attacks – vehicle tracking.  Many people chafe at the idea of vehicle tracking by worrying about big brother.  The reality is that if there was a tracking system installed in this vehicle with a communication channel to the law enforcement, it is unlikely that the truck would have even begun the attack.  Let’s assume that the driver stole the vehicle 30 minutes before the attack, would that have been enough time for law enforcement to intervene?  I don’t know what the average response time is for the Stockholm police, but I’m sure that they are more than capable of responding in less than 30 minutes.  Can we really afford to ignore solutions to overcome these attacks?

My intent is not to blame people in these horrific circumstances.  We are all learning how to overcome these new threats. My ambition is to raise awareness of existing technologies that can be innovatively applied to help protect lives.  We can’t change the past, but we can plan for the future.

Caleb Conner

International Business Developer for Trak Global