Pentagon Pursues Mashups, Microformats for Battlefield Intel

The U.S. Department of Defense is looking at microformats and mashups to aggregate existing data and bring intelligence to soldiers.

BOSTON—The U.S. Department of Defense is looking to mashups and something called microformats to help bring the Web to the modern day soldier and battlefield operative.

Microformats are lightweight, non-invasive metadata used to mark up Web pages easily, and mashups are Web services to aggregate information contained in unrelated Web pages in a wide variety of ways—many of them unanticipated by the original content designer.

The Pentagon is meddling with both technologies to use microformats with mashups to help expose legacy information for broader reuse, said Rosie Morales, an expert from Pentagon contractor Mitre, on Dec. 4 at the XML 2007 show, here.

"DOD is recognizing they don't need to reinvent the wheel for the Nth time; they want to use what's already out there," she said during a presentation titled, "A Lightweight Approach to Building the Department of Defense's Semantic Web: Can Mashups Bring the 'Wild, Wild Web' to the Warfighter?" delivered with Mary Ann Malloy, also of Mitre. "This is being driven by the new generation" of people entering the DOD's ranks, who are familiar with blogging, Web services and RSS, she said.


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"The new generation of war fighters is aware of this kind of technology," Malloy said. "They are using this stuff to communicate on the battle field... So let's bring it into the fold."

Mitre is a large government contractor that does a vast amount of work for the DOD, among other government agencies. The company has principal locations in Virginia and Bedford, Mass.

Malloy said that the DOD would benefit from the focused use of microformats. Microformats represent a lightweight markup approach to add a simple semantic extension to Web documents (XML, RSS, HTML and XHTML, for example).


In addition, they identify commonly used and understood data such as people and events in documents with qualities such as: being invisible to humans viewing the document, being easily understood and utilized by machines, and enabling users to more easily expose information to broad audiences, according to Malloy.

Malloy said possible DOD-specific microformats include: Mission. Vehicles, Tracks, Overlays, and Targets.

Moreover, microformats help expose widely understood information in Web documents to broad audiences via mashups and other microformat-aware applications, Malloy said.

In addition, DOD can leverage these technologies to poise legacy documents for reuse in its "net-centric" vision in a lightweight and economical way, although automated injection may be needed to make this practicable, Malloy said. And some extensions may be needed for microformats to apply to widely used DOD-specific concepts, she said.


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