By John Reis, military and aerospace key account manager at Advantech

Before the Internet of Things (IoT), electronic warfare was riddled with proprietary solutions that made it difficult or impossible for systems to communicate with one another and the sharing of accurate data between groups was very poor. This was in large part due to the military directly partnering with specific manufacturers that would create heavily engineered solutions specific to its needs, which resulted in minimal competition, due to having a non-reoccurring cost that outweighed the benefits of changing manufacturers over time.

Today, IoT has brought this full circle with open solutions to provide warfighters a seamless stream of information in an open systems environment. The ecosystem for these types of technology are now vast and far more competitive; however, having an open system solution is not without its drawbacks. With technology wars now being fought over the internet as well as on the battlefield, we are faced with cyberhackers who are trying to disrupt the stream of information to the warfighter. As such, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence will become mainstream paired alongside IoT devices.

The constant battle for effective and secure information to help guide decision-making processes in the war room and on the battlefield will be essential to the success of missions into the foreseeable future. IoT will continue to transform and improve warfare tactics and analytics. Information-sharing will continue to be a plus for all branches involved, from the ground-based troops to combat—both in the air and at sea. In this light, possessing and analyzing data in real-time is essential to the overall mission. This vital information provides the backbone for success in the internet of warfare, and will continue to provide the best possible and most up-to-date information to the warfighter—ensuring what is required to make difficult and necessary decisions, both  in the war room and on the battlefield.

Think of yourself as the warfighter. Today, many of our everyday devices are controlled by IoT – whether it be our heat or air conditioning programmed to be controlled from a fringe device, such as Amazon’s Alexa or the readily available iPhone or Android device, or a doorbell monitoring or smart home alarm system. This is precisely the same principle in the IoW (Internet of Warfare). Now, soldiers can gather data through sensors that control aircraft weapon systems, ground vehicle troops or unmanned vehicles. In such cases, the data is gathered and is then sent through a C4ISR System, where it is then processed and shared as vital information to the warfighter. For example, an unmanned submersible will be able to detect mines, adversaries or allies in any given situation, and report back its findings to the warfighter. By having this edge device or sensor connected to the backbone that is the internet of warfare, militaries can now provide a swifter response to a potential threat to any given mission. Having information like this will allow surface ships, submarines, air cover and military leadership to make decisions in real-time during conflicts.

Furthermore, as a result of this IoW technology, soldiers in the field with a wearable device can detect threats from incendiary devices that may be located close by. Detection will be a direct result of the use of this wearable device, allowing for the transmission of this data to not just one but all soldiers in proximity. In this way, these smart devices will help save and protect our warfighters from a variety of threats.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other unmanned systems will be a trusted advisor to the warfighter by providing another set of eyes and ears. For instance, a small UAV can be used to do Intelligent Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) on the battlefield. This process can relay numerous forms of information, such as where a battalion will be traveling to, and report back potential threats. Making the soldiers aware of these potential hazards is undoubtedly beneficial to the mission at hand.

Having all branches on the same backbone is a benefit that will allow the transfer of information from air to ground and from sea to land, connecting all military branches to satisfy any impending mission. Sharing these real-time, data-based decisions can also be made more confidential as an essential component to the success of the mission.

With AI and IoT becoming more and more of a staple for warfighters requiring excellent, current data, this technology will only be enhanced and perfected further in the near future. Over time, this will provide even more capabilities to the warfighter. Our military is craving the advancement of AI and R&D projects to satisfy technology gaps in this arena, a trend that will almost certainly lead to an explosion of projects and programs targeting the AI market over the next five to ten years. The military faction that gets AI on the battlefield first will be the dominant force for years to come. Eventually, the battles of the future will not be too far off from a Hollywood science-fiction movie. 

About the Author:

John Reis, military and aerospace key account manager at Advantech, has 30 years of experience in the embedded computing market with a heavy focus on defense and aerospace applications. He has been instrumental in the development of military product lines to service this market. Reis’ vigor for the advancement in technology in this market leads him to advocate for small form factor technologies to the warfighter, which then allows the warfighter to benefit from a cost-effective and real estate limiting solution to existing problems.