Thursday, May 17, 2012

Google Boats?

According to a news piece posted by AOL, Google is developing the ability to track and display the locations of ships at sea.

All of them.

Well, at least those actively using AIS transponders, but still.

This is a pretty interesting development, if you ask me.  Some of the benefits are obvious, and are mentioned in the article.

Then there's the fact that you could theoretically track the movement of military forces worldwide.  Provided they operate with AIS transponders active, that is.

I'd think that this represents a great tool to exploit off of the Horn of Africa.  Military vessels in the area with transponders active could act like homing beacons for shipping in the area, guiding them through protected waters and serving as a pirate deterrent.  The authors naturally assume that such new technology would obviously represent some sort of terrorist tool for attacking targets (because what else is Google Earth but a mapping program of terrorist targets, right?), but if American, Chinese, or whoever's naval units are operating in the clear, hey, go ahead and try it.  I'm willing to bet that in the battle of terrorist vs. 5 inch round or terrorist vs. CIWS, the winner will not be the guy with nefarious intentions.  Plus, in case they haven't noticed, terrorists and pirates are already attacking boats.

The really interesting bit of the article is Google's plan to map the entire seafloor in high resolution over five years.  Again, the assumption is that this will lead to all sorts of security problems when crashed spy satellites are located and the Chinese or Russians go out to lift them off the bottom.  Always with the negative waves, Moriarity.  Always with the negative waves.  Me, I'd like to see them locate Jack Weeks' A-12, to finally put an end to one of the unsolved tragedies of the CIA's OXCART program.

Of course, locating K-129 would be amusing too...we'd then know just how much of the sub was lifted off of the bottom by the CIA.  I'm not sure which would be more amusing, finding only a few pieces of the sub on the bottom, or the entire thing.

The article closes with the following line from an unnamed intelligence community source, after a brief bit about how Google services have little intelligence utility whatsoever in their minds:  "Just because you have the data, doesn't mean you can analyze the data or know how to use it."

Sure, I'll take that as a challenge.  Or maybe a mission statement...

And see?  I told you I'd be posting here again.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Yeahhh and we want planes too!!!

Anonymous said...

Marine Traffic does provide the location of AIS enabled ships, but only if they are within reach of land based station (provided by voluntaries). So coverage is scarce in many areas, and non-existant far from shores.

The same happens for aircraft with compliant transponders, as seen on .

Google seems to be looking at sattelite receivers, which would enable worldwide coverage.

Anonymous said...

Its probably bigger news to than to pirates and terrorists. It means low cost competition and end to their pay wall. Vessel Tracker will have to focus on higher end value added services. I agree, using the data effectively is always the bigger challenge.