Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Microformats: A DoD Use Case

Microformats have been around awhile, but I have just recently took the time to find out what they are and what they can do. A good starting place I can recommend is microformats.org. Basically, using microformats means adding attributes to existing html elements to enhance the meaning of the content.

The physical address presented on this blog is marked up, for example, as a hCard.

<div class="vcard">
<div class="adr">
<div class="org fn">
<div class="organization-name">Gestalt-LLC</div>
<div class="street-address">320 East 4th Street</div>
<span class="locality">Joplin</span>,
<abbr class="region" title="Missouri">MO</abbr>
<span class="postal-code">65801</span>

This could be thought of as a lightweight semantic web enabler. And the beauty of course is the simplicity of it. It is suitable for use in marking up HTML, RSS, Atom or XML.

So now the question: what could be accomplished with microformats? What might be a scenario in a military domain?

  1. A soldier is observing and recording enemy aircraft taking off from a hostile airfield. He microblogs about it on a ruggedized PDA marking up the aircraft information in a military airframe microformat (date, time, aircraft type, payload configuration, number of aircraft in formation, observed tail numbers, for example).
  2. This is an unanticipated observation, so the data may not be immediately useful or actionable.
  3. But, Google will find it (and yes, the DoD has Google appliances running on their classified networks). Not necessarily based on the microformating, but based on its normal searchable content. Technorati, however, does have a microformat search engine.
  4. These search results are microformat parsed and fed into a Temporal Analysis System (TAS) whose job in life is to predict the future by comparing recent events with similar historical events chains and their outcomes.
  5. It turns out that what the soldier observed, perhaps 10 cargo aircraft, all with extra fuel pods, bearing NNW, from grid reference 18SUU8401, is a 90% predictor that the hostile battalion will be mobilizing and deploying in 72 hours.
  6. Useful information to know derived from someone outside the normal chain of command and information flow!
Powerful and simple.

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