Why it matters

The Internet came from the defence world. In the 1970s and 80s, DARPANet, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, used switching and protocols to give Cold War survivability to communications networks. 

The 1989 world wide web naming and addressing protocols allowed the Internet to evolve into the global phenomenon that we know today.  More recently a new concept has come into being with the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), which is the extension of Internet connections beyond computers and communications systems to everyday objects such as cars, watches, food packaging, domestic appliances and many other products. Civil applications and commercial producers are the main drivers of this IoT technological revolution. The defence sector R&T has meanwhile continued Internet-related innovation – notably the concepts of Network Centric Warfare and Network Enabled Capability (NEC) that were espoused at the beginning on the century and are now concepts regarded as ‘business as usual’ with capability platforms and soldiers systems increasingly becoming network nodes in wider system of systems capabilities. 
Defence NEC, of course, needed to keep pace with the threat of cyber-attack; a constant battle which constrains the pace of change.  The IoT trend has increasing defence utility: military intelligence and command and control systems use the myriad of sensors that can be deployed in all the domains, allowing them to acquire full situational awareness and control over diverse conflict zones or battle areas.  The trend is towards an increase in urban scenarios where millions of sensors could provide military commanders with increased situational awareness and combat intelligence to carry out more effective operations on the ground. 

What the EDA does

In 2007, the EDA launched the ARMS project (‘HUGE Network Wireless Connectivity for Autonomous Remote Multi-Sensing Systems’) which  analysed the way of using multiple sensors in the military domain. 

The conclusions of this project were that Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Information/Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting Acquisition and Reconnaissance (C4ISTAR) systems at that time had a strong potential to provide a much wider situational awareness. 

The main capability gap highlighted in that project was the lack of 24/7 surveillance capabilities for urban and large remote areas. The development of Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) components was identified as a possible solution to fill the gap with a wide area capable ISR sensor network.

This project was one of the initial attempts to develop a kind of military IoT. In MEDUSA (Multi Sensor Data Fusion Grid for Urban Situational Awareness), one of the EDA Ad-Hoc Cat A Joint Investment Programmes (JIP) in Force Protection (FP), a standard architecture from the civil IoT was used to connect and fuse the data from different sensors like RPAS, UGVs or soldier sensor nodes. A demonstration was conducted showing the feasibility of the concept. 

The way ahead

While existing civil IoT technology is being applied in the military domain, Member States’ strong focus and continuous investment in this topic will be required to make it a success. The fast pace of technological change in this domain makes it necessary to increase defence research. 

A new EDA project, WINLAS (‘WIreless sensor Networks for urban Local Areas Survillance’), currently under preparation,  will analyse the behaviour of sensor networks, with a large number of heterogeneous devices for urban warfare. The effective management of sensor networks in hostile urban environments represents a true challenge and will require different issues to be addressed soon. Future work in this domain to provide the Defence IoT (NEC 2.0) will in particular have to focus on making available secure connections through suitable topologies and distributed fusion of heterogeneous sensors that must be small, mobile, robust, self-organising, autonomous and resilient, in order to infer the state of the battlefield producing actionable situational awareness.

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