As the Army Futures Command celebrates its first anniversary and the progress it has made in modernizing the force, a recent study from its corporate research lab, the Army Research Laboratory (ARL), highlights one of ways in which it is modernizing. By taking advantage of the massive technological advances in the civilian Internet of Things (IoT) and applying them in service to the warfighter, the ARL is furthering the viability of an Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT).
In a study this past May, researchers from the ARL showed that it could leverage the “smart city,” or the massive networks of internet-connected sensors that have transformed urban areas, to build out the network of information available to the soldier on the ground—the IoBT.
Utilizing a combination of ARL-designed architecture and commercially available hardware and software and a commercial networking protocol known as the long-range wide-area network (LoRaWAN), the ARL team showed that they could transmit data across IoT networks over a 5-kilometer radius.
So why is this significant?
In civilian use, the smart city’s Internet of Things (IoT) backbone lets municipalities track and analyze everything from traffic patterns to utility usage and crime.
In a military context, however, tapping into network-connected devices and disseminating vital data across the IoBT, can give soldiers a huge edge over their opponents.
For example, imagine what a decisive advantage a soldier has if he or she can use the hundreds of traffic cameras spread across an urban area to track threats as they move across the battlespace. Not only could soldiers act knowing the enemy’s exact location, but their information advantage could even be doubly decisive, giving them both knowledge of the adversary’s position and the ability to act on that knowledge with the element of surprise.
With this in mind, taking advantage of smart city technology and building it into an IoBT framework could make the Army a more formidable force – and more of an overmatch against any would-be adversary. After all, the battlefield, like the world at large, is becoming more driven by the sheer amount of data whipping by at ever-increasing speed.
Smart city technology is perhaps a foremost example of that trend.
Fortunately, however, as the military works to develop the IoBT concept and continues to prioritize interoperability with emerging technologies, they harness the potential of these technologies becoming incredible assets to our warfighters.