Theme impact

The impact of IoT on the defence industry

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Joint All-Domain Command & Control (JADC2) and other similar network-centric warfare concepts are making the IoT an increasingly important theme within the defence sector. JADC2 is a concept idealised by the US Department of Defense to improve coordination across all domains of warfare. Concepts like this would enable different service branches in the armed forces to combine arms and work together, creating a dispersed but united force structure.  

JADC2 aims to do this by combining the data collected from various sources, like sensors, drones, and satellites, to increase situational awareness. It will use various technologies, like IoT, AI, and 5G, to analyse the data more efficiently, making operations quicker.  

However, there are challenges associated with the development of network-centric warfare. For a military to fully take advantage of IoT's benefits, different branches must collaborate and communicate from the strategic to the tactical level to ensure seamless cooperation. 

The matrix below details the areas in IoT where defence companies should focus their time and resources. We suggest defence companies invest in technologies shaded in green, explore the prospect of investing in technologies shaded in yellow, and ignore areas shaded in red. 

In an increasingly polarised geopolitical climate, nations are increasing military budgets to secure themselves. As part of this, the defence industry is becoming increasingly modernised to adapt to the issues of today. Decision-makers are turning to IoT to facilitate this modernisation.  

Applications of IoT in defence can be revolutionary for militaries, improving C4ISR processes by taking advantage of large amounts of collected data to optimise the level and accuracy of information underpinning the strategies of key decision-makers. 

How IoT can help address the challenge of the data deluge

IoT devices in the defence sector will contribute to a significant increase in data generation. This data will provide valuable insights that can inform potential tactics. However, as interdependence increases, data can be analysed and disseminated automatically. This allows for more efficient decision-making and the optimisation of available resources.  

This process will become quicker with further innovation in the IoT space. As global military expenditure continues to increase, more data will become available, and militaries will need ways to process this data efficiently. IoT can also help address this demand as, instead of sending all of the collected information to one central command post, networked IoT systems can make sure the relevant data gets to the appropriate decision-makers in a decentralised manner. 

The role of IoT in enhancing multi-domain operations is being explored as part of the US military’s Joint All Domain Command & Control initiative. The US Army successfully tested the integration of AI and commercial remote sensing satellite data into the kill chain during Project Convergence 2020, highlighting the immediate impact these capabilities can have on the modern battlefield. AI-enabled systems can process sensor data and detect potential threats. The Dead Center system and the Maven Smart System were tested during this project. 

Systems like these can make it easier for armies to collect and process the growing number of data points generated during warfare. The British Army defines the Project Convergence exercise as testing “cutting-edge systems and technologies, including some for the first time on the ground”, adding: “It is designed to help make the British Army more lethal on the battlefield by cutting down on time and complications in what is called the ‘sensor-decider-effector-sustainer’ chain.” This aims to decrease the time between identifying enemies and engaging them. 

How IoT can help address the challenge of deployed environment conditions

Wearables can monitor the impact of difficult conditions on troops' health and report it back to command.  

For example, Legionarius, a Boston-based start-up company, produces smart garments that can sense a wearer’s penetrating wounds and burns before creating a digital alert notification that gives the geolocation of the casualty and a data profile of the wound, using data from physiological sensors to inform decision-makers further afield. It has secured over $1m in funding from the US Government to aid the development of a new smart garment system.  

In this scenario, IoT can be used to reallocate resources depending on the health and capability of soldiers. Other advancements in health monitoring can be used to measure physical metrics like body temperature and heart rate. 

IoT can help with the difficulties associated with navigating challenging environments, and successful mapping is crucial to successful operations planning.  

In 2022, the US firm Reveal Technology showcased its multi-drone mapping capability to the US Army Special Operations Command to illustrate how software can create three-dimensional maps collated from the imaging feeds of different drones. This technology can be applied to rapidly identify the best location to potentially land aircraft in a remote or hostile environment. For this technology to work, many items of hardware are required.  

Such IoT technologies can help military forces achieve an intelligence advantage on the battlefield and know what they are facing. This increased situational awareness will make decision-makers in the military more informed.  

How IoT can help address the challenge of digitalisation

The digitalisation of information is increasingly important to reduce the fog of war during military operations. If digitalisation is not blanket and uniform, IT infrastructure becomes siloed and functions less effectively. By addressing interoperability, militaries can help combat this challenge.  

The data aggregation element of the IoT value chain is aimed at addressing these issues, as data from different sources can be unified and shared amongst different hubs within a wider connected command network to provide real-time information. IoT devices in the defence sector could also be used to communicate with one another with a standardised language or code, meaning exchanging data is much easier. This will improve the operational effectiveness of the military. 

As militaries increasingly digitse, more data must be adequately organised and optimised for decision-makers.  

Thales has a Nexium Defence Cloud solution that allows interoperability between different service branches and nations. It can connect vehicles, weapons, and operators through cameras, sensors, and applications on a secure cloud network. Nexium can be used to deliver real-time situational awareness data of the entire operations theatre. Strategic options based on the data are aggregated and analysed using AI to enhance responsiveness to emerging or dynamic threats.  

Platforms like these are crucial to ensuring digitalisation does not become more of a hindrance than a benefit by organising and prioritising data appropriately. 

How IoT can help address the challenge of training and education

AR remote training is a useful application for IoT in defence, considering the high-stakes nature of the industry. In September 2023, the US Army announced it was buying more integrated visual augmentation system (IVAS) mixed reality goggles from Microsoft.  

IVAS is a headset that blends the physical and digital worlds, giving soldiers access to extra information by using thermal imaging, target identification, and many other technologies to improve situational awareness. These have the potential to be used operationally and for training. The device works by having many optical sensors, including ones for peripheral sensing, and can be used to display 3D terrain maps in the wearer’s field of vision.  

The IVAS will also let soldiers use holographic imagery for training in a safe environment. Their training can thus be conducted in far more realistic and dynamic environments than would be possible without AR, meaning soldiers are better prepared for the actual complexity of combat. 

The US has recognised the significance of synthetic training environments (STE), designating them as items of special interest in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act budget documents.  

Amentum, a US-based company working in the defence sector, created the Weapons as a Sensor Platform Internet of Things (WaaSP IoT) live training tool that uses IoT capabilities to aid soldier modernisation. The solution is an edge computing-enabled sensor platform where devices are incorporated directly into targeting systems, allowing soldiers to connect disparate sensors and networks together during training.  

Militaries must update training processes to prepare soldiers for evolving combat methods. 

How IoT can help address the challenge of manned-unmanned teaming

The trend of manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) means that conventional infantry equipment will be enhanced. This includes components like drones or C4I systems. IoT technology can help improve the coordination between operators and unmanned systems, providing remote control, monitoring, and data-sharing capabilities.  

Added MUM-T capabilities will allow unmanned aircraft to cooperate more with manned aircraft. Sensors on unmanned elements will feed data and intelligence back and forth to the manned platforms within a formation, thus increasing situational awareness and efficiency while reducing the threat to the operator. 

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.