What happens when advances in modern electronics mean that sensors like imaging-class radars, advanced day/night cameras, and even more exotic items like hyperspectral sensors, laser radars, etc. are no longer very expensive items that are mounted on dedicated platforms? When a wide array of video cameras, surveillance turrets, ubiquitous radar capabilities, and other systems built into vehicles, aircraft, ships, and unmanned vehicles provide an explosion of sensor data – just as a range of databases related to human patterns or physical infrastructure are also appearing on the scene, in numbers.
In part, it is similar to what happened when the Internet went from an academic platform to a global phenomenon. The good news was, so much more information became available. The bad news was, finding the things we were looking for started to involve a lot more work.
The military has this same problem with sensors, only worse. Most of the time, they’re not necessarily looking for discrete answers, but for an overall picture of what’s going on. That becomes hard as sensors move from a small number deployed on dedicated platforms, to hundreds or thousands of them employed in platforms of every shape and size. For some applications, like domestic security or protecting certain key areas, it gets even harder. The need to include physical surveillance, communications surveillance, information about human activities, and improved geo-awareness all combine to produce a maddeningly complex task.
Moore’s Law of doubling computing power, and Metcalfe’s Law of exponential network power, created this data explosion. Several cycles later, the military is hoping it can begin to offer assistance, by turning massive arrays of data into coherent systems that help humans respond at the speed of events. The first step was data fusion. The next step was sensor fusion. The third step is information fusion… and the US Navy has just set up a center to work on it.
In January 2006, “IBM Wins $370M Contract for Commissary Point-of-Sales System” covered IBM’s 5-10 year, $370 million maximum contract to support the US Defense Commissary Agency’s Commercial Advanced Resale Transaction System (CARTS), which replaces replace the existing point-of-sales (POS) system used at checkout. The DeCA is a supermarket chain in its own right, with worldwide operations and over 250 stores and distribution centers.
Recently, E&E Enterprises Global, Inc. was selected to provide a HughesNet high-availability satellite broadband system to support DeCA commissaries worldwide. Hughes Network Systems, LLC will provide the high-availability VPN service to E&E Enterprises Global as a subcontractor during the 4-year (1 base + 3 option years), $12 million contract. That covers 174 stores in the continental USA, 86 stores located outside that region, and 10 central distribution centers outside the continental USA (OCONUS).
HughesNet will support systems that include functions such as POS; debit and credit card transaction authorizations; “just-in-time” product ordering; shipping; receiving; invoicing and billing; email; as well as payroll and personnel management. HughesNet release.
Datalinks are an under-rated but critical technology set for any modern military. In simple terms, a datalink provides virtual circuit and datagram services that guarantee reliable, simultaneous, multi- channel transmissions. They can include voice, data, imagery, and video, and are generally encrypted for obvious reasons. These services may allow a soldier with a V-RAMBO wrist device to get streaming video from a UAV, or a strike aircraft to receive target information directly from troops on the ground via the ROVER system. Weapons with 2-way datalinks can be re-targeted in flight. Advanced uses of datalinks even include implementations like NATO’s Link 16 standard, which allow targets identified by one radar or aircraft to appear on others’ displays.
The Indian Air Force recently put out a contract for datalink development. In the ODL(Operational Data Link) pilot project, the Air Force plans to network selected aircraft and ground stations by 2012, as a first step and training opportunity. Over the next 10 years, they plan to equip their fighter fleets, transport aircraft, helicopters, AWACS and maritime surveillance aircraft, UAVs, and key radars…