The battlefields of the future are going to be completely unrecognizable from the battlefields of the past. The internet of things (IoT) is one of the factors leading the change. Of all the technology used in defense, IoT in defense is what will give the military machine of 2019 and beyond an edge in their operations by providing information and insights in real-time. This will enable the kind of real-time decision-making that wins wars.
Let’s discuss how.
Modern military operations are conducted in a complex, multifaceted, multidimensional, unpredictable, highly dynamic and disruptive environment, sometimes with unanticipated partners and irregular adversaries. Technological capabilities in all fields related to the military, including weapons, operations, logistics, information, etc. are advancing at a rapid pace.
Military commanders operate under severe time constraints while having to maintain high operational standards to anticipate, assess, and take appropriate timely action in increasingly pressurized environments. Commanders have less and less time to gain an accurate assessment of the situation, assess potential courses of action, and make decisions. Further, they need to factor-in information from all possible sources to ensure that a complete and relevant picture can be created of the situation, in near real-time, and understand the implications of their decisions and courses of action.
In the words of Sun Tsu Wu, the greatest military strategist of all time:
“The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”
IoT, when used as part of the suite of technology used in defense, is a potential solution to this problem. By integrating systems of sensors, actuators, control systems, and information platforms into existing military infrastructures, military decision-making can become more efficient, effective and real-time.
5 Areas for implementation of IoT in the Military
Let’s explore exactly how IoT can make military operations even more efficient:
1. The Internet of Things in Intelligence/Information
One of the most important aspects of military operations on which the success or failure of operation depends is the quality of the information or ‘intelligence’ upon which decisions are taken.
Sun Tzu Wu, wrote:
“The fore knowledge of the enemy terrain, his capabilities and immediate plans enable the conduct of successful offensive operations and similarly awareness of own strengths and short comings help in sound defense.”
With the modernization of information gathering devices like satellites, long range radars, active and passive sensors and fast communication devices, to name a few, the inputs are elaborate and fast. The need is to sieve actionable real time information for real time operations. IoT provides a platform to achieve this accurately.
2. The Internet of Things in Logistics
Logistics is one of the most complex parts of military operations, involving transportation and the supply of arms, ammunition, essential supplies, stores, equipment, medical supplies, personnel and materiel. To ensure the supply of the right things in the right quantity at the right time is essential for a successful operation.
The effect of IoT on logistics and supply chain management in all industries has been huge. Healthcare and information exchange have benefited immensely. In terms of military applications, the connected sensors and digital analytics that IoT technology offers can be used to track the journey of supplies and equipment from their source to the battlefield, in real time.
3. The Internet of Things in Creating Smart Support Bases
Incorporating IoT devices and sensors into military support bases can have several positive effects. Automated security screenings help to achieve increased safety while decreasing manpower. A network of security cameras connected to their environment via sensors and to a central network via the internet will also minimize security risks. The smart management of resources via IoT – electricity and water for example – will increase the capacity and output of military bases while ensuring the wellbeing of all individuals inside the base.
4. The Internet of Things in Data Warfare
By collecting, collating and analyzing data from a wide range of military/civil platforms including aircraft, weapon systems, ground vehicles, satellites and troops – the military can increase the effectiveness of their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems. This wealth of information will allow armed forces to identify key threats faster and with more accuracy and take actionable decisions in real-time. The importance lies in gaining actionable real time data about enemy and simultaneously deny our data to the enemy including leaking fictitious and misleading data to the enemy.
5. The Internet of Things in Military Operations
Operations are the final action based on the information, and real time SWOT analysis of both the self and the enemy. A commander who has timely and accurate information on all aspects of an operation and can take a considered decision in time has every chance of success.
The Main Challenges of Using the Internet of Things in Defense
The challenges that need to be overcome to successfully deploy IoT in the military domain include:
- Security challenges related to co-existence and interconnection of military and civilian IoT networks coupled with disastrous effect of compromise of own information.
- Challenges related to reliability and dependability, especially when IoT becomes mission critical.
- Zero-configuration or other approaches to simplify the deployment and configuration of IoT, especially in coalition settings where disparate IoT resources need to coexist and interoperate.
- Knowledge discovery, including semantic and syntactical discovery of information provided by IoT.
- Challenges related to the actuation of IoT devices, especially those with real-time requirements.
- Power challenges for tactically deployed IoT devices.
- Information management challenges for military application of IoT: trustworthiness, pedigree, provenance. Only secure and trustworthy information will enable military commanders and missions to benefit from IoT generated information.
The Main Opportunities of Using the Internet of Things in Defense
Notwithstanding the myriad challenges, the opportunities for IoT in the military domain remain manifold and include but are not limited to:
- Scenarios to use IoT in military environments such as smart bases that incorporate commercial IoT technologies in buildings and facilities for force protection at bases. IoT can also be deployed in maritime and littoral environments, for health and personnel monitoring, and just-in-time equipment maintenance.
- Monitoring and leveraging services in environments for disaster response and other activities.
- Applications of IoT technologies to support strategic and tactical reconnaissance.
- Architectural aspects of military IoT infrastructure, including security, information, and communication architectures, workflow/business processes, interoperability and integration of disparate technologies.
- Physical installations of military IoT systems built from commercially available elements and architectures.
Internet of Things in Defense: The Way Forward
Modern military equipment is expected to be increasingly armed with processing and communication capabilities, which can be employed to inspect or modify the status of the equipment. In order to accomplish full integration of IoT with said equipment, the relevant security mechanisms, protocol adaptions, and scalability properties must be provided. The possible outcome of this integration is a wider set of sensors and information for use in situation awareness applications, medical information applications, transport and logistics applications, etc.
The most developed and developing countries are moving rapidly in this area. It is the responsibility of Indian academia and industry to do further research and showcase innovations in the field to improve the architecture of Indian defense. We, with the help of experts in the government and industry must successfully create an indigenous IoT-driven enterprise for our defense forces.