Edge Computing Helps Warfighters Maximize Data’s Impact In-Theater


{Editor’s Note: This article was penned by Mark Kempf, Vice President of Business Development for CP Technologies. Kempf discusses the important advantages presented to the warfighter when edge computing is put into action in-theater. The efficient capture and synthesis of data at the edge allows warfighters to be as prepared and lethal as possible in an increasingly data-driven battlespace.}

Edge computing can mean many different things, but for military users, the key is flexible, modular, and rugged systems that are proven and reliable in harsh tactical land, maritime, and airborne environments. The need for these rugged systems is paired with exponential growth in available data from a multitude of sensors and sources, structured and unstructured, and the need of the warfighter to make decisions faster.

In competition, especially warfare, the winners in this scenario are not the ones that have the most data, but the ones who do the most with the data the fastest. Defense capability in the areas of targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, and dissemination can’t rely on exponentially growing an analytic workforce because even if you had the resources, the speed of information would slow across the lines of human-to-human collaboration. Automation using innovative artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning(ML) capabilities is a must to handle the data “tipping point.”

While AI/ML capabilities can provide analytic support beyond human capabilities, the military can’t rely on constant access to cloud and largescale IT resources when they are operating far forward. Processing is required at the point of collection (by sensor, soldier, sailor, marine, or airmen) and across numerous platforms and units operating on a vast and ever-changing battlespace. The goal is for edge computing to absorb, integrate, and validate vast quantities of data in any number of formats before it gets transmitted.

Speaking with data science professionals, it is estimated that up to 75 percent of data collected in the past was either inaccurate, not needed for a business operation, or redundant or stale when it gets put into a cloud or other data storage technology. Eliminating the numeric uncertainty that has historically hindered all existing sensor-based data integration capabilities, edge computing can offer the ability to process raw data at the edge in real-time (avoiding data prep time), autonomously detect expected versus unexpected data, and determine precise operational role and responsibility for decision making.

Edge computing enables earlier data context awareness, which has enormous potential for the Internet of Things (IoT). Advances in edge computing for remote analytics and data processing could also lead to exciting new applications in the future, including cognitive capabilities. Massive amounts of context-aware data will become available as the use of edge computing allows us to clean and analyze data at the source of collection. This ability to process at the sensor not only reduces the amount of data that must be transmitted but improves the data overall and improves the ability to exchange the critical information required to accomplish the mission in communications limited environments.

For tactical edge rugged compute capabilities, the key is being able to combine the potential of the large commercial market (which has advanced significantly beyond government capabilities due to huge investments), and get it into the form required to support warfighter environments. The design, manufacture, and integration of standard and custom high-performance computing platforms, displays, storage arrays, networking hardware, and datalinks or Modified-off-the-Shelf (MOTS) for military and other customers operating in harsh environments ensures we provide rugged edge compute capability on par with advanced commercial systems.

Ruggedized products for harsh environments, implemented with lightweight, hyperconverged systems to help reduce the computing footprint of deployed and expeditionary forces, maintain and advance the processing capabilities to support the combatant. This lightweight, hyperconverged infrastructure can be configured for rapid deployment, significantly reducing the timeframe for network implementation and maximizing AI capabilities at the point of data collection. Edge computing creates a situation in which the totality of data is much greater than the piecemeal of data at the hub.