Case studies

Applications of IoT in the defence industry

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US military assets will be connected across space, air, land, sea and cyber domains

JADC2 is a strategic initiative developed by the US Department of Defense. It aims to connect all the various platforms and components of the US military. However, the strategy has not yet been fully defined or implemented due to conceptual and technological challenges. The US military wants to use this system to increase interoperability between different branches, enhancing the ability of persons throughout the chain of command to monitor, command, and control the flow of military operations effectively. 

Sensors will be used to connect all military branches into a synthesized network. Sensors could be linked to command centre to enable a rapid response to a perceived, emergent, or dynamic threat. Military ground, air, marine, and spaceborne vehicles could all be used to collect and share data simultaneously, with other capabilities such as AI used to optimize the categorization and distribution of information across all connected entities before, during, and after combat. 

The US Army Close Combat Force has contracted Microsoft to provide augmented reality (AR) headsets. The contract is worth up to $21.9bn over ten years following 2021. It will transition the integrated visual augmentation system (IVAS) to production and rapid fielding to enhance night vision and situational awareness capabilities. IVAS is a heads-up digital display based loosely on Microsoft’s HoloLens headset. 

The cloud-connected device aims to allow soldiers to access any data useful to them in training, operations, or combat. Data includes imaging feeds from sensors such as small unmanned aircraft system platforms or other electro-optical/infrared optronics, as well as facial recognition or target identification databases. In July 2023, the Army received delivery of the first 20 prototypes of the IVAS 1.2 variant. Upgrades over previous versions include an improved low-light sensor. 

In an increasingly data-driven world, future military technology must be integrated and interoperable to make the most of recent innovations. 

Elbit’s Legion-X networking solution connects an autonomous drone swarm

Elbit Systems describes its Legion-X networking solution as a “multi-domain autonomous network combat solution for unmanned heterogeneous swarms”. The solution can be applied to coordinate deployments of swarms of connected heterogeneous platforms and payloads. This can support many operations depending on military need. For example, it can be used on surface, sub-surface, terrain, and subterranean operations. 

Legion-X uses tactical radio and data links for connectivity, meaning communications are secure across the integrated robotic platforms. Due to the remote conditions that military forces may need to operate in, there must be no reliance on conventional GPS for navigation and situational awareness.  

The Legion-X solution can use private LTE, 5G software defined radio (SDR), or other tactical clouds for communication to achieve this, while also allowing for the incorporation of data from many sources and sensors, improving the user's situational awareness. It can do this because it is compatible with various external platforms. 

While there are concerns about the use of drones and the lack of human involvement, the Legion-X solution only allows for coordinated lethal strikes following human confirmation. The Legion-X can thus reduce the cognitive loads imposed on soldiers while still retaining enough human oversight to make informed decisions in sensitive situations. It also can give an information advantage by integrating external devices and sensors, helping build a more complete view of a battlespace.  

This can also increase the efficiency of a military, as information is easier to access and more easily actionable with the assistance of the Legion-X platform.  

Militaries use Android software to give soldiers a clear picture of the battlefield

ATAK stands for Android Team Awareness Kit. It is a software application for mapping, tracking, collaborating with other users, marking strategically important areas, and connecting to sensors. Militaries use ATAK software to improve situational awareness and communication between soldiers.  

In February 2023, the British Army announced that it had experimented with the technology in the jungles of Belize on Exercise Mercury Canopy and found it successful in sharing information with airborne signallers. 

ATAK software gives troops the functionality of a smartphone by sharing video, imagery, and messages on the battlefield. Establishing communications in remote environments can be difficult, and ATAK can make this coordination easier.  

The app allows for the tracking of team members, enemies, and weather elements. Rather than trying to articulate over the radio, ATAK can show exactly where an individual is in near real-time. It also allows users to watch video from public IP cameras, street cameras, traffic lights, and other static or vehicle-mounted sensors, including those from law enforcement agencies. 

ATAK connects with wider operations by being an integrated tactical network (ITN) component. The Capability Set 23 exercise of the US Department of Defense was designed to assess the integration of JADC2-based technologies within its ITN as part of the wider drive towards more connected operations.  

Capability Set is a US Army military technology exercises that take place every two years, starting in 2021, to develop new capabilities for its ITN, allowing decision-makers to see how the technology works in more realistic scenarios.  

A wide variety of connection methods are available to ATAK, thanks to its open systems architecture design. This also means that ATAK can constantly be updated and tailored to specific use cases depending on the party using it, whether it be a civil agency or a military branch. For the military, ATAK can be interfaced with tactical radios to ensure more secure communications. Bluetooth can also be used, meaning there is a wide range of options for connectivity, which provides robustness. 

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.