In search of security

Peter Horner, editor

Given the endless madness in the world that’s reported nonstop in the mainstream media, amplified by social media and reflected in all manner of wild and crazy ways by the respective U.S. presidential primary campaigns, it’s no wonder people are running scared and looking for more “security.”

While many of the fears are baseless, some are not. Financial fraud and identity theft are real, fast-growing problems both domestically and abroad. Outdated, crumbling or vulnerable transportation, telecommunication and other infrastructure – and the chaos that may ensue should a major network go down in our interconnected world – can’t be ignored. Terrorism is an international plague on the planet, and the possibility of a nuclear attack remains a threat.

No, this isn’t a cheap attempt to instill even more fear in an already jittery public. On the contrary, it’s a means to introduce the third in our series of articles on “O.R. as a Catalyst for Grand Engineering Challenges.” Based on a report to the National Science Foundation, the articles detail how operations research can address, and hopefully help solve or mitigate, many of the grand challenges facing the United States and the world today. Previous articles in the series presented a summary of the report (August 2015), as well as a focused article on the topic of “sustainablity” (December 2015). This month’s grand challenge: “security.”

In their article “Opportunities in security” (page 28), David P. Morton of Northwestern University and Suvrajeet Sen of the University of Southern California discuss O.R.’s potential role in restoring and improving urban infrastructure, preventing nuclear terror and securing cyberspace. Sen led a team of prominent O.R. scholars and practitioners who wrote the report to the NSF.

Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find our biennial survey of vehicle routing software (“Higher expectations drive transformation,” page 40) in which co-authors Randolph Hall and Janice Partyka describe some of the many innovations that are moving the VR software space forward in response to market demands. Hall is vice president of research at the University of Southern California, as well as professor in USC’s Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. Partyka is principal of JGP Services, a consulting group that helps companies with product strategy, market research and communications.
For their article, Hall and Partyka interviewed several representatives of VR software vendors, including Cyndi Brandt of Omnitracs Roadnet, who says, “Routing used to be just about creating a plan, but now it is about execution.” Along those lines, proof of delivery, tracking and compliance are considered supplemental needs that demand system integration.

The VR software survey package includes side-by-side comparisons of 25 products along with a directory of 22 vendors.

In other news, INFORMS recently launched a website called “Analytics Education One Stop Shop” that offers a comprehensive look at university analytics programs. “Whether you’re a program director, professor, aspiring student or business leader, you’ll find loads of help and information that will guide you,” says Diego Klabjan, a professor at Northwestern University and chair of the INFORMS University Analytics Program Committee. For more on the program, see “INFORMS Initiatives” (page 18) or visit the searchable database.
— Peter Horner, editor