US Army tests IoT for the battlefield in smart cities

Researchers want to know if the principles of city connectivity can improve military applications.

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The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is investigating how smart city connectivity and infrastructure can be used on the battlefield.

Headquartered in Adelphi, Maryland, the research laboratory has been testing long-range wide-area network (LoRaWAN), the protocol often deployed in smart cities to bring together Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors in dense, urban areas. 

As reported by GCN, the overall aim is to see if smart city technologies can improve the capabilities of "Internet of Battlefield Things" (IoBT) and military applications where buildings, clustered objects, and walls might otherwise interfere with signals -- and, therefore, operations. 

Our IoT devices, including mobile phones, smart lights, televisions, and household appliances generate vast amounts of data useful in monitoring and predictive analytics. On the battlefield, the same principles can apply to bases, mobile gadgets, drones, and vehicles including ships and cars.

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The principle of IoBT is to harness the information generates via sensors and networks for military use, in what IEEE calls "the full realization of pervasive sensing, pervasive computing, and pervasive communication."

During the city experiment, transmissions were sent through IoT devices strapped to the top of a vehicle which was driven around Montreal. Messages were sent in the 915 MHz band, an Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) band generally reserved for applications in these fields. 

The tests revealed that transmissions could be sent up to roughly 3.1 miles away from a receiver. 5G has not been tested. 

Speaking to the publication, ARL computer scientist James Michaelis said IoT does not apply only to modern living, but also military bases which are on the way to modernization. As such, understanding the benefits -- and limits -- of current IoT connectivity protocols is key to refreshing military technologies.

CNET: Smart City roundup

"Army installations [...] can be viewed as cities in their own right," Michaelis told GCN. "Modernizations will likely include smart infrastructure and intelligent systems that operate them."

Warfare in cities is not the only potential use case for these experiments. By identifying and dealing with any connectivity issues between IoT and mobile devices, this may also help law enforcement, threat detection & response, as well as disaster recovery efforts. 

TechRepublic: Smart cities: A cheat sheet

Last year, the research lab gave $25 million to IoBT REIGN, a team led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that is focused on developing predictive battlefield analytics and services.

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