Peeking Into the Internet of Battlefield Things

By Patrick Landry, Vice President/Director of Programs

Since the birth of wireless data communications, the Department of Defense has envisioned the connected battlefield. Warfighting units are connected in real time with each other and mission command, armed with complete information to make highly informed combat decisions.

Big data connectivity among expeditionary forces at the tactical edge will help revolutionize DoD military operations and maintain battlefield superiority. The U.S. Army is particularly calling this the Internet of Battlefield Things, or IoBT. And we are seeing a technological convergence that’s going to make it happen.

It is a convergence of:

  • Sensors
  • Mobile broadband and networking
  • Cloud computing
  • High-performance computing
  • Power management
  • Device miniaturization

Harnessing those areas, DoD organizations will collect, aggregate, and process massive amounts of sensor data. The powerful storage, compute, and analytic devices will be small, portable, and hardened for protection from the elements and cyberattacks.

Unencumbered by server farms and data centers taking up buildings, defense agencies will move mission command centers to the tactical edge.

In the near future, tactical formations will be able to stream data and HD video from body-worn cameras to a secure cloud for mobile command centers to ingest. They will fuse it with remote video from weapons and drones as well as intelligence reports and then disseminate actionable information to all formations seamlessly and with no latency.

In the IoBT, we will see all the IT “things” that a brick-and-mortar command center needs shrunk down to fit in a vehicle, a transport case, and even smaller form factors. These “anywhere” platforms will be easy to set up and make command centers less static targets for adversarial threats.

Bringing the IoBT to reality requires a gargantuan partnership effort between government, industry, and the scientific community. Progress in technical disciplines including IT, engineering and integration, software, and analytics must continue.

And, many philosophical questions exist around resiliency, continuity of operations, and disaggregation of capabilities to reduce the attack footprint. For instance, just how much data and infrastructure should we put in the cloud if we can’t get to it for some reason?

As a technology and complex systems integrator, SAIC is well positioned to tackle these challenges. Unlike OEMs supplying products, we seek out the most suitable technologies and take a holistic, system of systems approach to solutions development.

That will be crucial for the IoBT to work, but it is our sweet spot and why it’s an exciting time for SAIC.

 

About the author: Patrick Landry has more than 30 years of experience in managing and leading large acquisition programs, associated scientific and experimental material development programs, and large military organizations. He supervised 350 industry and military service acquisition members and associated field service representatives who supported various U.S. Army development programs. He is a retired military officer with combat experience in Afghanistan and has held positions that included U.S. Army deputy commander, chief of staff of a combined/joint task force in combat, and Army brigade commander.