Top Five Trends Affecting Defense Programs
Despite legacy requirements and MIL-SPEC compliance, tomorrow’s programs all follow the civilian, commercial market.
One wonders if all this buzz about the Internet of Things, Smart Appliances, and the Connected Car will have any effect on DoD and defense programs. You bet it will, but there won’t be a 1:1 mapping. Here are my Top Five Tech Trends for 2016.
1. Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing more than “sensor to shooter,” and as Abaco’s (formerly GE Intelligent Platforms) Director of Marketing Rubin Dhillon has said, “The DoD has been doing this for a while.” Adding intelligence to all manner of “appliance” started out with the DoD’s Connected Battlefield in the 1990s. Soldiers, Marines, weapons, vehicles, perimeter detectors—all of these assets and sensors were connected (remember “Global Grid”?) to present a total force situational awareness view of the complete battle space. Going forward, lower power, cheaper and highly integrated/intelligent sensors, microcontrollers and RF connectivity devices will only make the DoD’s job easier.
2. Low Power, All-Day Battery Life
With ARM driving its devices to lower power than ever before—and introducing new 32- and 64-bit architectures to do it—Intel is forced to make its devices even better. The company’s latest high-end 6th Gen Skylake Core i7 and Xeon Processor D product family are the most efficient Intel has ever offered. At the low end, the company’s 32-bit Quark SoC is ideal for x86-based sensors that operate on coin cell-style batteries. Not that you would, but now you can.
3. Connected Cars
Connected Cars are driving worldwide standards for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure “big data” information sharing. In the civilian world, this is for safety, traffic and fuel efficiency. Applied to defense, these standards and technology not only provide a much cheaper identification, friend or foe (IFF) solution, but also might be used for predictive maintenance and logistic tracking. (Recall the miles-long convoys of sometimes misplaced materiel streaming north to Baghdad.)
4. Spotlight on Safety Critical
Toyota, GM, and Takata airbags have all brought laser focus by the public and regulators on the safety criticality of automobiles. Well, duh: cars are dangerous and can kill people. But the spotlight is not on the drivers, it’s on the manufacturers. Look for a better awareness by automobile OEMs of the need for safety-critical software, tools, and artifacts by IC vendors to prove certifiability. Each of these COTS products will benefit military programs that use the same RTOS, communication stacks, and ICs/peripherals (like CANbus).
5. Security Gets Serious
Everyone knows someone who’s been hacked at home, work or on their smartphone. As the general public wakes up that security is everyone’s business, hardware, software and systems vendors throughout the entire industry will build security awareness and procedures into everything they do. The chance of a repeat of the Huawei router “backdoor” affecting U.S. government installations and DoD programs should get smaller. As well, defense systems designers should have more choices (and security) in their BIOS/UEFI, boot loaders and COTS application software.