Veterans Day, WW I, and Technology

Posted by David Simon on November 12, 2018 at 2:57 PM
David Simon
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This Veterans Day I wanted to specifically look at some technology and innovation that happened during WW I and draw several parallels since it's been 100 years since the signing of the treaty that ended that war.

First…THANK YOU! If you are a Veteran, I want to say thank you for your Service and Thank You for the many ways each of you continues to contribute to society today.


In case you missed it, didn’t know, or just like reading the “Fun Facts” inside your Snapple Bottle Cap!!!

1. Did you know the first UAV was actually developed during WW I? YEP! That’s right…the first pilotless drone was developed for the U.S. Navy between 1916 and 1917 by two inventors, Elmer Sperry and Peter Hewitt.

2. Veterans Day began in 1919 as Armistice Day, the year after Germany and the allies signed the 1918 agreement to cease World War I hostilities. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.

3. Armistice Day become Veterans Day after WW II, in 1954 President Eisenhower signed the law changing the name to recognize all veterans.

TECHNOLOGY AND WW I: POINT 1 – “Easy isn't an option”

In WW I, when an attack was ordered, Allied soldiers literally went “over the top,” climbing out of their trenches and crossing no-man’s-land to reach enemy trenches. They had to cut through belts of barbed wire before they could use rifles, bayonets, pistols, and hand grenades to capture enemy positions. A victory usually meant they had seized only a few hundred yards of shell-torn earth at a terrible cost in lives.

- I think we easily forget the harsh reality of the challenges faced during that period in history. I also like to be reminded and remind others of the etymology of words or phrases like, “Over the Top”.

- There is no doubt if you want to create disruptive technology in today’s market. You are going to have to go OVER THE TOP. You will be shot at, slowed down, and many times your tech won’t make it. Be prepared to push hard everyday to gain small advances before having a major breakthrough.

TECHNOLOGY AND WW I: POINT 2 – “Synchronization”

Airplanes had been around for about a decade and guns far longer. But airplanes and guns? Clear potential but propeller blades kept getting in the way. The first attempts to get around this were done by the U.S. Army, where they basically tied a gun to the plane with a leather strap and a gunner sat beside the pilot. Then they put the gunner above the pilot, so the bullets cleared the propeller blades, but this made it hard to aim. So Franz Schneider patented the “interrupter gear” and later it was redesigned by Anthony Fokker as the “synchronizer”, which synchronized the cam shaft of the propeller and the firing system to synchronize and allowed a machine gun to fire between the blades of a spinning propeller.

The take away?

  • Synchronization –Being a data guy, I am going to stick with parallels relating to the usage of data. Data like (airplanes) has been around forever and Analytic tools are not new to combat. However, the ability to “synchronize” these properly is still lacking!
  • From the Army’s first attempt to the engineers redesigning the approach multiple times, we must improve upon previous attempts and approaches.
  • Our NNCompass software allows for ingestion and cleansing of data to transform and integrate the data, so a normalized and non-proprietary format can be leveraged by multiple analytic platforms and tools. Previous approaches weren’t bad, they simply aren’t the easiest ways and certainly not the best ways.
  • No matter your tech or the problem is…keep improving!


Night combat was extremely difficult and there were no “Night Vision Devices”. So a British inventor created “tracer” bullets—rounds which emitted small amounts of flammable material that left a phosphorescent trail. The first designs were erratic and limited to 100 meters, but the second tracer model developed in 1916, the .303 SPG Mark VIIG, emitted a regular bright green-white trail and made a major “impact” on night combat (pun intended).

  • Whether fighting in a trench or on today’s modern battlefield, it is critical to trace your steps. It is great to empower soldiers, sailors, and airmen with advanced weaponry, but those weapons are only as useful as the supporting technology that works in parallel.
  • With data you have to be able to normalize the data in ways to make it useful and equally important is to be able to “trace” back where that data came from. Authoritative sources and data provenance is critical when transforming and normalizing data for analysis.

Topics: Data Preparation, NNCompass Enterprise, NNCompass Government, Veterans Day, Technology

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