For the Australian Defence Force (ADF), timely access to accurate information can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. But in a system heavily reliant on paper-based administration, this presents a complex challenge.
Invicta Prospects Group’s Daniel Pace and Shane Acorn are tackling the problem head-on with Buddy Suite Analytics, an innovative software platform they’re planning to trial with the ADF. The co-founders’ deep understanding of the issues developed during their combined 20-plus years as Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers.
“Being the ground level operator, we could draw a correlation between our two biggest burdens: uninformed decision-making and the sheer volume of administration,” Pace explains.
“For every activity, we’d often capture the same data repeatedly across multiple paper logbooks, which were then signed off by numerous people. And this can happen at 2am out in freezing rain, when you’re managing your ninth dive in 48 hours with minimal sleep, flipping through papers to determine blood levels of nitrogen absorption for diver safety, doing risk assessments and manual calculations with stopwatches around your neck, all with just a glowstick for lighting. There are so many potential points of failure.”
Frustration led to invention, and in 2016 Pace and Acorn hit upon an idea to streamline the way the Australian Clearance Diving Branch planned, managed and captured data for diving activities, creating a framework for a software application called Dive Buddy.
“In the scoping and prototype development phase, it became clear that we could apply our framework to capture data and mobilise it for decision-making across any military activity – operations, procurement, compliance, health and safety – because they all follow the same planning and delivery process,” says Acorn.
Dive Buddy was quickly joined by a suite of modules under the central Buddy Suite Analytics application – Jump Buddy for parachuting operations, Range Buddy for shooting activities, and Bomb Buddy for explosive demolitions. Pace and Acorn spent 2017 and 2018 developing the prototype, discharging from the military and moving into the company full time in March 2019, taking up residency at the Macquarie University Incubator. There, they have found support to evolve and grow.
“Being surrounded by others with a similar vision, creating something from nothing, is incredibly motivating,” Pace says.
“The development programs, particularly the Lean Business Model Canvas and customer discovery process, have been crucial, and more recently, the incubator has connected us with potential investors.”
Buddy Suite Analytics offers a single source of truth with comprehensive, interconnected information for high-level cognitive decision support. Invicta anticipates it could deliver the ADF annual savings of more than $228 million through process improvement and productivity gains, and countless millions on unnecessary procurement. Operationally, there are significant gains on offer in planning efficiencies, information security, real-time workforce visibility and interoperability of systems. The company is also looking to integrate advanced sensor technology to support operator monitoring on the ground, for unparalleled health and safety.
The potential impact and opportunities to scale are enormous.
“The problems that we're solving aren't unique to the ADF – they’re common across global militaries, domestic and global law enforcement agencies, and emergency services,” Acorn says.
“We're also exploring applications within mining, construction and engineering as well, because the framework we’ve developed to plan, brief, conduct activities and capture information for more informed decision making can be applied and used quite effectively in those industries.”
Continuous improvement is high on the company’s agenda. In addition to the integration of advanced sensor technologies, Invicta is developing capacity for Buddy Suite Analytics across Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
“There is significant interest in Buddy Suite Analytics as a driver for AI and ML capability, such as in identifying individuals most likely to pass Special Forces selection based on their abilities and strengths over time, or tracking the effects of repetitive blast exposure on Defence personnel,” shares Acorn.
“The immediate focus is on putting the base product in place so we can capture that data and mobilise it to provide those key insights.”