With the increasing frequency of terrorist attacks, I cannot help but wonder if there is a way for this problem to be solved, once and for all. Is it possible for technologies to be developed that might prevent a truck driving over dozens of people? Is there a solution to help us detect explosives from afar? Granted, there are technically some solutions already available that could help in limited ways, such as the novel autopilot systems that have evolved (e.g. Tesla cars or Google), which can provide enhanced safety through accident prevention and security to prevent intentional crashing or running over individuals as happened in Nice. As an accomplished Open Innovation Solution Provider, I look at this problem from the perspective of an engineer, consultant, and enthusiastic participant in Open Innovation challenges.
I question what else could be done and how can open innovation play a role in the process?
Mobile hydrolysis units on the US navy ship the Cape Ray have been used to break down Syria's chemical weapons arsenal © US Dept Transportation
Governments and security forces are always adapting their processes and protocols to threats; sometimes these adaptations are put in place preventatively, before they occur, and sometimes the changes are made after the fact. I remember one particular Open Innovation Challenge that was looking for “Mobile Systems to Destroy Chemical Weapons”. This was created, according to Duke University
, by the USA Dept. of Defense. This is an example of acting proactively given the challenge took place just a few weeks before the use of chemical weapons in Syria during the summer of 2013. In the end, the DoD opted for using their own proven mobile system, installed aboard the MV Cape Ray
, to destroy the Syrian stockpile, receiving their own award
Open Innovation has also been applied to various other security-related topics, such as challenges looking for improvements on double door vestibules, airport access control or new “energetic materials” threats (explosives), just to name a few.
If we look now at the terrorist attack that happened in Nice (France) in July 2016, where a truck was used as a weapon of mass destruction, you start to wonder if and how acts like this may have been prevented. I believe spending time worrying about what could have been done is only helpful if it leads to ways we can prevent it in the future.
It is important to remember that just because you can propose a better solution to a problem, writing it down as a comment on a website somewhere will not help to make changes happen. This is important, as it highlights the great difference between stating changes should happen via blog posts and actual organized problem-solving in the form of Open Innovation through the work of specialized organizations. It’s not enough to state your “great solution” to preventing car accidents or kamikaze bombings on a website forum, but rather, the solution needs to be integrated with the problem definition, and needs to be studied by the people and organizations with the means and the desire to make it reality.
Thousands of man (and woman) hours are spent daily in worldwide discussions about possible solutions to terrorism, so why not channel that energy into Open Innovation challenges? It is also interesting to think about what actions may be taking place and what research may be underway, but not necessarily in the public eye. Deaths may have already been prevented because of someone’s new technology solutions and if that is the case, I’d like to give thanks to those working to improve public security.
When asked the question “Can Open Innovation help prevent terrorist attacks?” My answer would undoubtedly be - Yes!
David Espinosa is the EU Managing Partner at Aronax Technologies Group, a company that provides technical solutions to a wide range of private and public entities and has been a NineSigma Solution Provider since 2014. Learn more about David and his Open Innovation experience on our website.