Innovation in the Defense Industry: Looking at IoT



The defense industry is all about boosting the performance of personnel, platforms, and systems for the battlefield.

Military areas of interest encompass electronics, including virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), artificial intelligence (AI), remote sensing, unmanned systems, machine learning, data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The promise that IoT holds for defense includes actionable information, as limitations on data impact the capability of military personnel. IoT can help build a more complete picture on which critical decisions are made.

Figure 1: Mineman 3rd Class Anayesli Garcia, assigned to Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures Company (ExMCM Co.) 202, explains the capabilities of unmanned underwater vehicle side-scan sonar systems to members of the American Amphibious Force Association during a static display at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki/Released)

Tracking human performance and medical care, logistics, unmanned systems (Figure 1), and widespread sensing are among military uses for IoT. However, challenges for military IoT include creating a portable, contained internet and cloud. As such, wireless battlefields are not the same as connecting at the nearby Starbucks. The military must take the networks with them, which take a significant amount of time to set up and manage. Management for IoT includes both physical and electronic security, large amounts of data, high-performance computing, and the spectrum over which communication is deployed. Command and control (C2) can benefit from IoT for support in rapid decision-making, improved coordination of action with a high level of complexity, with high levels of endurance and persistence, and in dangerous missions to lessen or preempt human intervention.

Historically, defense and aerospace industries have led the way in research and development, with industrial, commercial, and general public interests benefitting as various innovations, applicable to the rest of the world, became de-classified. The Global Positioning System (GPS) comes to mind as an example. The IoT is an area where industrial and commercial interests are leading the way, however. IoT has developed rapidly, with attributes like security as an afterthought. Another major concern for the growth in IoT includes the successful implementation of 5G. In an ideal world, 5G will provide the ultimate in pervasive communication such that autonomous vehicles can stay in constant contact with a cloud. We are in a nascent period with regard to IoT. Ideas and possibilities for IoT applications are far outpacing the rate at which we are able to secure, communicate with, efficiently power, and move IoT devices. There is no doubt that the defense industry is moving the ball forward for artificial intelligence and robotics. Will the military contribute significantly to resolving challenges facing IoT? IoT is of interest to the military. Stay tuned.


Lynnette Reese is Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Intel Solutions and Embedded Systems Engineering, and has been working in various roles as an electrical engineer for over two decades. She is interested in open source software and hardware, the maker movement, and in increasing the number of women working in STEM so she has a greater chance of talking about something other than football at the water cooler.

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