Three former Green Berets are trying to transform the way military operations work -- through data.
Ben Collins, Dave Staffel and James Patrick founded Aptus Technologies, a company that produces technology designed to make soldiers' work both easier and more efficient. The idea for Aptus grew out of more than five years of experience on the field, where the three saw the gaps in technology that were slowing down soldiers in crucial situations.
Aptus's focus is on data technology. Their products attempt to harness both new information created on the field, and relevant historical information in order to make it possible for soldiers to be fully equipped with the knowledge they need, at the moment they need it. In the old system, soldiers send a data deluge of submitted reports back to base, creating an immense backlog of information that would take far too long to get processed, thus preventing the release of relevant feedback in a timely fashion. Aptus's major product, Threat Act Program, or TAP, works to counter the overflow of data and create meaningful information that could be vital for soldiers, as well as providing a way for soldiers to communicate in real time -- all things not previously possible.
"It's the gap between how things are done and how things could be done," said Staffel. "Imagine that you have a patrol that's going into a village: Their mission is to talk to one of the village elders and discuss some of the problems and see how the Americans can help them. The elder discusses a particular personality with them and this soldier has their mobile device and is inputting this information as they're receiving it," Staffel explained. "That info is being put into the TAP system which is being processed with legacy data, and its correlations and links are immediately visualized for the user -- the person interviewing may see that that name is associated with an attack on the U.S. convoy. It might be very important information that could save that patrol's life on the way back to the base."
All three founders served as Green Berets in multiple wars, including in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they first began to realize the extent of the technological lag they were working within.
"We were operating out in very remote areas in the hinterlands talking to locals and trying to find bad guys and knowing our peers were out doing the same," said Staffel. "And we were wishing we had a way to link all that really important information together in that environment."
TAP is a threat mining program that creates what Aptus calls "a massive collaborative intelligence environment" so that people on the battlefield can collaborate on intelligence issues and view the information in clear and concrete data visualizations. By creating a way for soldiers to see real-time connections between people, TAP becomes a powerful tool on the battlefield, especially in times when the situation is not entirely clear.
"The threat is evolving all the time," said Staffel. "Folks who have been hostile reconcile, and sometimes they go the other way. There's never a stasis that you can depend on. Your data must be evolving along with the battlefield."
The founders have known each other since training more than eight years ago, and are finding their foray into business requires much of the experience they picked up abroad.
"Having gone to war together a couple of times, we've just always been together," said Staffel. "We've been able to really share our experiences with each other and really try to define issues clearly and develop requirements clearly -- we knew the situation and thought we could do something about it."
Since getting off active duty in 2008, the three have been working on Aptus, while remaining with the National Guard.
"We still wanted to be a part of the team and still wanted to serve," said Staffel. "We also wanted to realize the other half of the American dream and be entrepreneurs and build a business."
Staffel emphasizes that in the end, Aptus is creating a product they wish they'd had when they were still serving.
"Aptus Technologies is here to make solutions for the people who are protecting us," he said. "We want to leverage our experience to make better and more-efficient products for the people who need it the most and that's what keeps us awake at night."
This story is part of Military Families Week, an effort by HuffPost and AOL to put a spotlight on issues affecting America's families who serve. Find more at jobs.aol.com/militaryfamilies and aol.com.