Defence is stepping up investments in the ‘Internet of Things’ as Australian technology looks set to integrate the concept into military operations.
Last month, ADM reported that Adelaide-based SME Myriota secured funding from Boeing venture firm HorizonX to develop its direct-to-satellite technology. The shoebox-sized nanosatellites and corresponding ground links have the potential to revolutionize the ‘Internet of Things’, or the potential for any device to share data with each other and end users regardless of location.
ADM caught up with Myriota’s CTO David Haley and Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group’s Dr Christine Shanahan and Leong Yen to see how the next internet revolution is set to impact the ADF.
“The Internet of Things obviously by its very nature has already changed the future battlefield,” Dr Shanahan said. “That's due to the ubiquity of sensors, the ability to collect vast amounts of information and to share that information. That's obviously available to both enemy combatants and non-combatants as well.
“For the ADF, that is creating a very dynamic operational environment which increases the complexity of the space in which any one individual needs to operate.”
DST and Myriota are working together to find ways of heightening commanders’ awareness of the urban environment.
“If you just look at the numbers, a larger percentage of the human population is in cities or in urban environments, so we expect that to be very important in the future,” Shanahan said.
“Within those urban environments we have to be able to sense what we want to sense, and know what we need to know, before we conduct an operation and during an operation, and we need to be able to move that data around.
“It's about having a lot of small distributable and unattended sensors that we can place out across the battlefield.”
Myriota’s direct-to-satellite technology will enable DST to do just that. “It’s the long battery life and small size of our solution, and its ability to communicate directly with a satellite even under those constraints, that make it very attractive for those kinds of applications,” CEO David Haley said.
“As we have more satellites we have a decrease in latency, we have another means of moving information around on the battlefield,” Shanahan said.
DST is also interested in the application of this technology in military logistics somewhat similar to what is seen in commercial operations.
“Within the next few years we’re hoping to look at some simple changes in the logistics supply chain, and demonstrate the technology to see how it fares,” Yen said. “We developed a proof-of-concept with Myriota around what's called a ‘Smart Storage Box’.”
The Box could enable logisticians to monitor and track the condition, quantities and movements of supplies in a timelier manner, thereby improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the supply chain.
IoT technology can also monitor the health of soldiers in real-time using a device known as a ‘Fight Recorder’, currently in joint development by Myriota and DST.
From there, DST expects that the Internet of Things will gradually permeate all aspects of military operations.
“We expect that going into the future, the Internet of Things will just become more intelligent and more pervasive,” Shanahan said. “It could creep in just about anywhere.”
Whilst IoT is still in the early stages, developing the full spectrum of possible applications will involve a wide range of domestic industry players.
“My focus right now is all about moving of the information around but there's a point at which I will be integrating different sensors,” Shanahan said. “Those sensors are going to come from other companies. There are certain sensors that we'd be interested in.”
The ultimate benefit, however, will be felt by serving members of the ADF.
“They’ve already got such complex battle spaces they operate in, they really have so much information in their minds, they have to be able to react so quickly,” Shanahan said.
“IoT could definitely reduce significant burdens on our serving men and women by taking a bunch of processes out that we just don't need a human to be wasting any of their brainpower on.”
The next step is to test the technology with other Five-Eyes nations in Contested Urban Environment (CUE) 2018, to be held in Canada this September.