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Leveraging Internet of Things within the Military
Network Environment – Challenges and Solutions
M. Tortonesi
1
, A. Morelli
1
, M. Govoni
1
, J. Michaelis
2
, N. Suri
2,3
, C. Stefanelli
1
, S. Russell
2
1
Department of Engineering, Univer
sity of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy
{mauro.tortonesi,alessandro.morelli,marc
o.govoni,cesare.stefanelli}@unife.it
2
US Army Research Lab, Adelphi, MD, USA
{james.r.michaelis2.civ,niranjan.suri.civ,stephen.m.russel8.civ}@mail.mil
3
Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, Pensacola, FL, USA
[email protected]
Abstract
—The widespread adoption of IoT technologies will
significantly affect many aspects
of military operations. A growing
number of battlefield assets will
soon become networked entities,
thanks to capillary and high de
nsity personal and environment
sensors systems. The accurate and fine-grained information
gathered could significantly benefit military intelligence,
surveillance, and reconnaissance operations, facilitate automated
supply chain logistics,
and facilitate urban op
erations in mega-city
environments. To achieve these goals, research has to address
several issues, such
as reconciling the di
fferences between
commercial IoT architectural
patterns and military network
architectures, interoperability between different IoT systems, data
processing and information management, and realization of
resource-efficient IoT middleware solutions. The resource
constrained tactical networking environment makes this research
agenda particularly challenging but also pressing in terms of the
need for novel middleware solutions.
Index Terms
—Cyber-physical applications, Military
Communications, Internet of Things.
I.

I
NTRODUCTION
The term Internet of Things (IoT) has been coined relatively
recently but has deep roots in mu
ltiple other areas of research
including cyber-physical systems, pervasive and ubiquitous
computing, embedded systems, mobile ad-hoc networks,
wireless sensor networks, cellular networks, wearable
computing, cloud computing, big data analytics, as well as
intelligent agents. In addition, recent advances in
miniaturization, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), low
power computing, and machin
e-to-machine communications
have further fueled the growth
of IoT and the commercial and
industrial sectors have already devoted considerable attention
to the field. As a largely commercial technology, innovations
in IoT stem from and benefit the military domain under the
broader topical areas of cyber-physical systems and embedded
computing. However, the impact of advances in commercial
IoT will increasingly have influenc
e on the military because of
the military’s relationship with commercial and industrial
partners and processes.
We expect that the widespread adoption of IoT will
significantly impact the military in
at least four key areas: 1)
new sensing and computation platforms with integration in
military processes; 2) advances in underlying IoT enablers; 3)
increased available information an
d 4) doctrine changes related
to IoT availability and capabilities.
First, given the market drivers of competition and
economies of scale, modern co
mmercial IoT offers inexpensive
and robust platforms that could be used to complement and
extend the sensing and computation capabilities provided by
military grade equipment. Ther
efore, we expect to see co-
deployment and coexistence of commercial IoT technologies
adjacent to traditional military technologies.
Second, we expect the underl
ying enablers for IoT (e.g.,
miniaturization, sensors, energy efficiency, etc.) to be leveraged
for traditional military equipment. A multitude of platforms,
ranging from ships to aircraft to ground vehicles to robots to
weapon systems, will be impacted by IoT technologies. Further,
as IoT technologies become more ubiquitous, the number of
connected “things” could grow
to include medical supplies,
food, water, ammunition, and other consumables and
components. The impact will be si
gnificant, from more just in
time maintenance to reduced downtime to optimizations in the
logistics and supply chain processes.
Third, we expect that IoT will prove to be a significant
source of information for militar
y operations, especially in the
context of urban environments, such as smart and mega cities.
In fact, metropolitan infrastructure systems, such as traffic
monitoring systems, smart utility networks, public
transportation systems, video surveillance networks, and other
services provided by cities for the purpose of the residents will
be a valuable source of information and a surrogate for purpose
built and deployed sensors.
Finally, we expect that the concepts that underlie IoT will
fundamentally change the doctrine
and the Techniques, Tactics,
and Procedures (TTPs) of the future military battlefield, which
will be a highly connected operating environment, with ad-hoc
and large-scale deployments of capillary and high density
personal and environmental sensors systems. The prospect of
everything in the battlefield being a networked entity,
regardless of how small or large, significantly increases the
potential for improved situation awareness at multiple levels,
but also raises many challenges that will be discussed later.
Just as the advent of communications networks ushered in
the era of Network-Centric Warfar
e, we expect IoT to usher in
a new era of IoT-Enabled Operations, with the emergence of
innovative and sophisticated cy
ber-physical applications.
Specific applications will assuredly include biometric soldier
monitoring, gesture enhanced communications, collaborative
and crowd sensing, smart information provisioning through
augmented reality, and logistics and supply chain automation.
However, the adoption of IoT technologies in the military
context raises specific research challenges, such as
interoperability of military systems with commercial IoT
devices and metropolitan in
formation infrastructures,
information filtering and prioritization to ensure the timely
processing and dissemination of the most valuable information,
and analytics for IoT-generated data for situational awareness
purposes. Coexistence and co-d
eployment of co
mmercial IoT
and military hardware raises cybersecurity and information
assurance concerns. Leveraging information from
commercially deployed IoT infrastructures in smart cities and
other uncontrolled environments raises issues of deception in
the information gathered.
This paper provides an overvi
ew of how the aforementioned
IoT-related research challenges ar
e further exacerbated by strict
resource constraints that exist in tactical environments;
particularly in terms of communications and power, but also to
some extent with computational and storage capabilities. The
sections following the overview describe the need for dedicated
IoT middleware solutions that
provide specific features to
facilitate the development and deployment of IoT applications
that address the IoT related research challenges within and for
the purposes of military operations. Given that the overall topic
of IoT in military operations is very broad, and to scope
discussion, as well as provide
focus for a proposed middleware
solution (
Sieve
,
Process
, and
Forward – SPF)
, this paper
concentrates on the communications and information
management aspects of IoT challenges.
II.

B
ENEFITS OF
C
OMMERCIAL
I
O
T
FOR
M
ILITARY
S
YSTEMS
AND
O
PERATIONS
The co-deployment and coex
istence of commercial IoT
technologies and military systems will affect many aspects of
IoT enabled military operations. In order to illustrate the impact
of this revolution, this Section presents an overview of the
current state of the art in comme
rcial IoT solutions and analyzes
the potentials for their adoption in military environments.
A.

Short Survey of Commerci
al IoT Technologies
The exponential growth of
IoT commercial markets is
producing a plethora of ever more powerful and energy efficient
devices. Most of those devices are built on top of traditional
hardware platforms either of
the microprocessor (e.g., ARM
Cortex A), or of the microcontroller (e.g., ARM Cortex M or
Atmel AVR) variety. However, highly innovative hardware
solutions based on neuromorphic processors (such as IBM’s
True North Chip), hybrid CPU/manycore (such as Adapteva’s
Parallela board) or CPU/FPGA
architectures (such as Xilinx’s
Zynq-7000 SoC) are also emerging. The capabilities of these
platforms enable the execu
tion of sophisticated and
computationally hungry services while still remaining fairly
energy efficient.
In addition, IoT devices are being paired with increasingly
advanced sensors and actuators. Wearable devices, like the Myo
Armband, are capable of recognizing human gestures and of
using them to interact with automated systems. Commercial
biosensors, widely adopted for fitness and healthcare
applications, also enable the co
llection of important biological
metrics, such as heart rate, to
provide a comprehensive picture
of a person’s health state. While initial attempts at smart glass
devices, such as Google Glass,
were not very successful, a new
generation of devices, such as the Microsoft Hololens, seems
poised to provide important information to their owners in a
concise, contextual, and non-intrusive fashion through
augmented reality technologies. These new capabilities allow
the development of advanced immersive environments in which
humans can interact with IoT devices and automated systems in
a natural and very effective way.
Commercial IoT solutions also bring interesting innovations
from the networking perspective. Several interesting standards
for low power short range communications have emerged in
recent years, including IEEE
802.15.4 and Bluetooth LE.
Modern commercial communication chips, such as the Texas
Instruments CC1120 transceiver,
also allow reach-back links
with very long range (more than 20 miles line-of-sight) albeit
low bandwidth (less than 10Kbps) communications. Paired with
adaptation solutions such as
6LoWPAN and BNEP, these
standards open up an entire new range of possibilities by
enabling IP-based communications
on top of IoT devices, thus
ensuring interoperability with networking applications
designed for less constrained devices and wired infrastructures.
Finally, note that an increasing
number of IoT devices in the
market are designed for harsh industrial environments. While
their specifications are not quite up to military standards, they
represent significantly better alte
rnatives for direct adoption in
military environments than typi
cal commercial grade devices.
B.

Potentials for Military Adoption
The large scale adoption of IoT technologies in military
scenarios paves the way to Io
T-Enabled Operations, where a
new generation of cyber-physical applications promises to
significantly improve combat e
ffectiveness. We can identify
two fundamental pillars for the development of cyber-physical
applications:
sensing
and
automation
.
Sensing is directly impacted by IoT technologies. Their low
cost enables the deployment of
commercial IoT sensors on a
large scale to extend and complement military sensing systems
and networks. Capillary and/or high density deployments of IoT
sensors enables significantly more accurate and comprehensive
situation awareness through the collection of large quantities of
environmental data, while at the same time making for a quickly
deployable and expendable platform.
In Humanitarian And Disaster Relief (HADR) scenarios
with operations in urban environments, the integration of
military systems with civilian information infrastructures could