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Key questions about IoT in defence: Q&A with GlobalData analyst

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Will Tyson is an associate analyst in GlobalData’s Thematic Intelligence team. Will graduated from the University of East Anglia in December 2021 with a master’s degree in economics and international relations and has a background in geopolitics, as well as the sport and defence sectors.

What are the most exciting developments in IoT for the aerospace, defence and security (ADS) industry today?

The Internet of Things, or IoT, describes the use of networked sensors, effectors and information systems to control and monitor the environment as well as the entities and assets active within said environment. The most exciting development in IoT in the ADS sector is the applications for drones. In an increasingly tense geopolitical climate, with conflicts across the globe, drones are playing a more central role, especially in the Russia-Ukraine war.  

It is costly and difficult to transmit large amounts of data from sensors on drones to a central command hub. Many companies are working on technology that allows more of the data processing to take place on the edge of the system or on board the drone itself. Some efforts to solve this problem include drones with self-contained edge computing containers, which allow the drones to process images once it returns to a station.  

Which areas of the ADS industry do you think will benefit most from IoT solutions?

Battlefield awareness will benefit most from IoT solutions. IoT solutions will increase the quantity and quality of data that is made available to decision-makers, as it will be become increasingly aggregated and digestible. Battlefield awareness will benefit the most as when IoT assets connect, they can work together as a force multiplier, giving an information and strategic advantage.  

It can also increase the efficiency of the observe, orient, decide, act (OODA) loop. However, the challenge of data deluge must be solved in order to fully benefit from IoT technologies. As the number of observations increase and become more varied, more tools are required to analyse and turn the data into actionable outputs.  

Do you think adoption of IoT technologies will grow significantly in the next two to three years?

Yes, in the next couple of years you can expect to see more utilisation of IoT in defence. The US Department of Defense (DoD) has made the interconnectedness that IoT offers an important cornerstone of US military strategy.  

Joint All-Domain Command & Control (JADC2) is a concept that would connect sensors, drones and satellites to increase situational awareness by combing the data collected, allowing senior military officials to make more informed decisions. JADC2 initiatives have been receiving significant funding from the US government, prompting defence primes like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin to expand their capabilities in this area.  

Raytheon was selected to work on the Common Tactical Edge Network for the US Air Force, to provide networking and data aggregation solutions for data collected by sensors, in order to support the JADC2 initiative.  

Are you seeing any barriers to implementation of IoT in defence?

Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important to executives across many industries. When implementing IoT in defence, extra precautions must be taken to ensure the data transmitted is well-protected, as it could include sensitive information like the location or health of military personnel.  

Cybersecurity is an important, evolving issue. For instance, according to the US Department of Justice, “a December 2023 court-authorised operation [has] disrupted a botnet of hundreds of US-based small office/home office routers hijacked by People’s Republic of China state-sponsored hackers”.  

Implementation of IoT technologies cannot be rushed and should not be enacted without adequate security.   

Which companies are the leading adopters of IoT in defence right now?

The traditional leaders in the defence space are also many of those that are leading in the implementation of IoT, as the best performing companies recognise that IoT can have a widespread impact, by improving operational efficiency. Leaders include Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing and Airbus.  

Examples of use cases include unmanned drones, which are fitted with sensors that can transmit data to military bases, as well as other sensors including ‘wearable’ sensors for monitoring the health of soldiers or equipment, and finally the networking solutions which enable the aggregation and analysis of sensor data.

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article. 

GlobalData’s Thematic Intelligence uses proprietary data, research, and analysis to provide a forward-looking perspective on the key themes that will shape the future of the world’s largest industries and the organisations within them.