Transforming the Battlefield Into IoT Domains

By Michael Killion, Senior Director, Marine Corps Systems Command Programs

U.S. military personnel are often on the edge of global conflict and our troops face unique circumstances and terrains. For many years, the Department of Defense has sought ways in which it can harness the power of commercial communications services and capabilities to advance battlefield capabilities to improve situational awareness and make better real-time decisions.

This concept has been coined the Internet of Battlefield Things, or IoBT, and we are now at a critical inflection point where chatter and wishful thinking are transforming into reality.

Imagine the commonplace commercial capabilities that we use in our homes today, such as surveillance, device control, alarming and critical systems monitors, could be integrated in new and innovative ways to address mission needs, save lives, and eliminate years of costly research and development.

With greater focus from the DoD on transitioning from the global war on terrorism to a peer threat environment, technology integrators like SAIC have been hard at work designing solutions with technology partners like Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to develop cloud-based tools that improve expeditionary force readiness. We are bringing together in-house solutions and the best commercial and government solutions to apply the internet of things concept to address DoD challenges.

Following our research and development investments and partnerships with HPE, VMware, and other leading technology companies, we are creating a reusable architecture that allows us to rapidly deliver a customized capability that expands situational awareness at the unit level, and facilitates shared awareness down to the individual operator. For this solution, we have integrated HPE's EdgeLine series of edge processing servers, which are key to our distributed/mesh compute architecture.

Also, we use a combination of HPE/Juniper switch, route, and Wi-Fi infrastructure. We currently use VMWare's vSphere and ESXI virtualization products as the base operating system on the HPE servers. And we are integrating this on widely used platforms such as the Polaris MRZR®, Polaris DAGOR® A1, and the HMMWV.

RELATED: Peeking Into the Internet of Battlefield Things

In less than a year, our team has designed, developed, deployed, and successfully tested a mobile cloudlet hosting an IoBT architecture. This network is equipped with an organic internet, network point of presence, sensor platforms, and a data analytics framework. We are operating as an agnostic integrator, which enables us to select the best overall technologies with mobile capabilities that communicate, sense, and collaborate, in near-real time, and across multiple domains (air, sea, land, cyber, etc).

At several industry conferences this fall, including HPE’s booth at VMworld, we will be displaying this technology on small tactical all-terrain vehicles that are connected to a highly portable mission command center, offering never-before-available situational awareness at the front lines and giving U.S. forces a tactical advantage against peer threats.

Additionally, we are using the vehicle lab to perform research that could lead to future defense and non-defense applications, such as first responders, involving sensor integration, advanced analytics, low-power/high-compute architectures, and other current and emerging technology.

This is an exciting time for SAIC, and we are proud to show this new solution with HPE. Visit us at select upcoming events.

About the author: Michael Killion retired from the United States Marine Corps after 25 years of service as an infantry officer, commanding through the 0-6 level. He transitioned to SAIC in 2011, where he continues to support the Marine Corps as a program and division manager, providing specialized services and solutions.