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Military “Internet of Things” require Robust Communication and Network technologies

There is great potential for IoT technologies to revolutionize modern warfare, leveraging data and automation to deliver greater lethality and survivability to the warfighter while reducing cost and increasing efficiency. Analogous to IoT, Military internet of things (MIOT) comprising multitude of platforms, ranging from ships to aircraft to ground vehicles to weapon systems, is expected to be developed. MIoT offers high potential for the military to achieve significant efficiencies, improve safety and delivery of services, and produce major cost savings.

 

Maj. Adam Taliaferro, USA, strategist in the future warfare division of the Army Futures and Concepts Center said, “The Internet of Things has a big effect on our ability to do intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,” he says. “It can help us define the operational environment, characterize what’s going on—not only in dense urban terrain but also in large open fields—and it helps us in our ability to make decisions. Another example is intelligent analytics, which combines precision logistics with precision analytics so the force can be resupplied without requests, or materiel can be redirected on priority. “It also may help us in garrison understand how we can secure our bases, employ forces, rapidly shift them,” the major says.

 

However the successful development and deployment of IoT technologies across the military requires many challenges to be solved. The future billions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices shall be deployed ‘everywhere’ and to be accessed ‘any time’ from ‘anywhere’, anything from large buildings, industrial plants, planes, cars, machines, any kind of goods. The U.S. Army is looking toward the Internet of Things to reshape the future force for multidomain operations.  Faced with the challenge of networking vast amounts of diverse sensors, the service views this type of networking as the solution to greater efficiency combined with increased capability.

 

In order to make effective use of IoT, the devices must be able to connect to global networks to transmit sensor data and receive actionable analytics. One significant challenge when adopting commercial IoT in military operations is that military networks, especially tactical ones, usually do not connect to the Internet or have restricted, limited, and expensive (e.g., using SATCOM) Internet access. There is also unavailability of network services in remote terrains, deserts, oceans, and mountains.Therefore military should invest in resilient, flexible capabilities to extend Internet connectivity in denied areas utilizing technologies like high-altitude communications relay platforms, and Microsatellites.

 

In October 2017, for instance, the US Army announced it had selected the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to lead a $25 million initiative to develop the scientific foundations of a next-generation internet of battlefield things (IoBT). In the announcement, Army leaders stressed the need for a robust network to make connected devices truly battle-worthy.

Military IoT Network Requirements

The IoTs (sensors, actuators, and gateways) are expected to produce unprecedented amounts of data, the collection, storage, and combined processing of which will become increasingly important.  With their limited bandwidth, today’s military networks may not be able to support the emerging intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability that might be supported by widespread IoT deployments.

 

Jeff Langhout, who runs the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicles Systems Center, said that the Army recently ran an experiment in which two Bradley Fighting Vehicles were outfitted to command four roboticized M113 armored personnel
carriers. US  Army is looking into more and more data-intensive gear, such as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, a set of augmented-reality goggles intended to give soldiers a lot of visual real time data to help with tasks like targeting during operations, and also with training and simulation during downtime. That’s also supposed to hook up with data feeds from tanks or other robots.

 

Jeff Langhout, who runs the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicles Systems Center, said that the Army recently ran an experiment in which two Bradley Fighting Vehicles were outfitted to command four roboticized M113 armored personnel
carriers. ground, when you have robots wanting to talk to other robots, wanting to talk to ground vehicles and you go behind the hill, you go behind the rock, you go down in the gully; you’re in a city and you go around the corner of the building.

 

The likelihood of urban combat where bandwidth is in greater demand could amplify the problem, Marine Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kawada said during a panel at the MilCom conference in October 2017.  To take advantage of that opportunity, military leaders say they will need networks robust enough to handle the bandwidth demands and flexible enough to configure as needed in rapidly changing circumstances.

 

The number of IoTs and the nature of traffic will thus require far more frequency spectrum than is commercially available for them today. Therefore different strategies and technologies like spectrum sharing and spectrum management are required to be developed.

 

IoBT must appropriately leverage all networks — blue, gray and red, said Stephen Russell, the chief for the Army Research Lab’s battlefield information processing branch. In this construct, blue networks are secure and military-owned; gray networks are often civilian networks with uncertain trustworthiness; and red networks are adversarial networks.

 

The Navy has taken a similar read on emerging IoT. A June 2017 document notes that as connected devices are deployed more widely, availability becomes an increasing concern. The networks carrying medical data, for instance, “should never go down — even for a second. And if they do, we need to be able to get them back up and running quickly.”

 

Some have expressed concern that present military networks don’t meet this standard. IoT devices that run without firewalls or antivirus protection could easily be compromised on current networks, Marine Corps Maj. Scott Cuomo told an IoT summit hosted by the AFCEA DC Chapter.

 

Communication and Network technologies

Communication of data between devices is a power consuming task, specially, wireless communication. Therefore, new communications and routing protocols are required that facilitates communication with low power consumption and with low memory. Communication technologies are required that are robust to signal interference and/or loss of network operation.

 

Most battlefield military IoT networks shall operate over tactical radios. There is need to develop next generation of high-bandwidth radios that could make these integrated networks a reality. Cognitive radio and dynamic spectrum management techniques are required to automatically overcome bad conditions in the communications environment. Systems should be robust to jamming, supporting techniques to actively track jamming signals and applying automatic jamming avoidance measures.

 

The  effort to exploit the unique capabilities of a networked battlefield will be an interdisciplinary problem that brings together researchers in cyber-physical computing, information theory, security, formal methods, machine learning, networking, control and cognitive science, among other disciplines.

 

Mobility Management

In contrast to commercial deployments that mainly focus on systems with fixed sensors/devices Military internet of things (MIoT) shall consist of large number of mobile things such as UAVs, Aircrafts, and vehicles. Even soldiers with wearable devices (such as smart watches, wrist bands, smartphones, etc.) would form part of the mobile IoT. The mobile IoT devices using traditional wireless protocols would find it quite difficult to connect with each other and other components of the IoT network in the presence of mobility, intermittent connectivity and RF link variability. The huge number of mobile devices in Military IoT requires efficient mechanisms for mobility management.

 

For example, Military vehicles would need to transmit and receive data from different gateways depending on their locations, which would keep changing due to their mobility. This calls for radical new sensor network paradigms for Military IoT, such as mobile ad-hoc networks (MANETs) or delay-tolerant networks. Mobility also creates additional challenges in areas such as device discoverability, power usage optimization and communication protocols.

 

The emerging civilian mobile waveforms such as 5G provide lower latency, better coverage, faster Internet connections, and to allow for more connections than the existing cellular network, all of which may enable more IoT devices to be connected. These technologies need to be integrated into military-specific communications architectures e.g., multiband radios with scarce bandwidth and MANET topologies.

 

Most battlefield military IoT networks shall operate over tactical radios. There is need to develop next generation of high-bandwidth radios that could make these integrated networks a reality. Cognitiveradio and dynamic spectrum management techniques are required to automatically overcome bad conditions in the communications environment.Systems should be robust to jamming, supporting techniques to actively track jamming signals and applying automatic jamming avoidance measures.

 

Communication of data between devices is a power consuming task, specially,wireless communication. Therefore, new communications and routing protocols are required that facilitates communication with low power consumption and with low memory. Communication technologies are required that are robust to signal interference and/or loss of network operation. The leading communication technologies used in IOT are IEEE 802.15, low power WiFi, 6LoWPAN, RFID, NFC and other protocols. The utility of these protocols and for military applications need to be explored.

 

Flexible Networks

Pellegrino notes that the battlefield situations the military operates in “range from the moderately stable to very high dynamic situations.” To support IoT, the military’s networks will need to be flexible and interactive, he said, and still work despite limited bandwidth, intermittent connectivity and with a large number of devices on the network.

 

The arrangement of those networks needs to be done “totally autonomously,” he said. The military’s partners may be changing depending on the mission, and connected devices will need to work across networks with different network equipment and configurations. “To achieve changing objectives with multiple complex tradeoffs, we have got to have highly adaptive management and organization leading to action, with no burden on the soldier, either cognitive or physical burden,” Pellegrino said.

 

DARPA has been experimenting with “mobile ad hoc networks,” designed to form a self creating and self healing mesh of communication nodes, with setup time measured in minutes instead of days. DARPA envisions networks of more than 1,000 nodes providing individual soldiers with streaming video from drones and other sensors, radio communications to higher headquarters, and advanced situational awareness of other soldiers’ location and status.

 

 

 

References and Resources also include:

https://www.c4isrnet.com/special-reports/military-it-modernization/2018/08/03/the-internet-of-things-will-depend-on-modernized-networks/

 

About Rajesh Uppal

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