A Review on Internet of Things for Defense

By Paula Fraga-Lamas

A Review on Internet of Things for Defense

The Internet of Things (IoT) is undeniably transforming the way that organizations communicate and organize everyday businesses and industrial procedures. Its adoption has proven well suited for sectors that manage a large number of assets and coordinate complex and distributed processes. This survey analyses the great potential for applying IoT technologies (i.e., data-driven applications or embedded automation and intelligent adaptive systems) to revolutionize modern warfare and provide benefits similar to those in industry. It identifies scenarios where Defense could leverage better commercial IoT capabilities to deliver greater survivability to the warfighter, while reducing costs and increasing operation efficiency and effectiveness. This article reviews the main tactical requirements and the architecture, examining gaps and shortcomings in existing IoT systems across the military field and mission-critical scenarios. The review characterizes the open challenges for a broad deployment and presents a research roadmap for enabling an affordable IoT for defense and PS.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a distributed system for creating value out of data. It enables heterogeneous physical objects to share information and coordinate decisions. The impact of IoT in the commercial sector results in significant improvements in efficiency, productivity, profitability, decision-making and effectiveness. IoT is transforming how products and services are developed and distributed, and how infrastructures are managed and maintained. It is also redefining the interaction between people and machines. From energy monitoring on a factory to tracking supply chains, IoT optimizes the performance of the equipment and enhances the safety of workers. Until today, it has allowed for more effective monitoring and coordination of manufacturing, supply chains, transportation systems, healthcare, infrastructure, security, operations, and industrial automation, among other sectors and processes. IoT is estimated to reach 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and the potential economic impact will be from $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion per year by 2025. Overall, IoT would allow for the automation of everything around us.

Examples of IoT deployment are numerous, but the following cases are illustrative of areas where the civil deployment has achieved significant benefits that can be leveraged by the military. They include transportation, energy efficiency or inventory managements.
Transportation: Telogis, which builds engine-monitoring systems for General Motors (GM) vehicles, estimates that its smart engine reduces fuel consumption by 25%, around 30% in idle time, increases fleet use by 25%, and workforce productivity by 15%.
Energy efficiency: IoT-based energy management systems can reduce energy use in office by 20%. Smart thermostats and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) save consumers as much as 10%–15% on heating and cooling. Additionally, smart appliances for home automation systems are now being researched. IoT-based use cases for smart cities have been also identified, like traffic monitoring, surveillance, and pollution monitoring. Within this scenario, the content of the samples acquired may expose critical information. For example, in the case of noise pollution monitoring applications, the noise may also contain private conversations.

The above-mentioned examples illustrate some of the ways in which the private sector is leveraging IoT and enabling new business models. Today, European research projects like RERUM, RELYonIt, FIESTA-IoT, BIGIoT, or bloTope intend to tackle the most relevant shortcomings of commercial IoT. Among the different projects, EU-funded METIS-II must be highlighted: the researchers created a 5G radio-access network design and provided the technical enablers needed for an efficient integration. Other concerns, like environmental issues or green deployment schemes for IoT, still remain open. In this section we provide an overview of the most promising IoT scenarios. Until now, the deployment of IoT-related technologies for defense and public safety has been essentially focused on applications for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR), and fire-control systems. This is driven by a predominant view that sensors serve foremost as tools to gather and share data, and create a more effective Command and Control (C2) of assets. IoT technologies have also been adopted in some applications for logistics and training, but their deployment is limited and poorly integrated with other systems. Besides, IoT functionalities are useful for establishing advanced situational awareness in the area of operations. Commanders make decisions based on real-time analysis generated by integrating data from unmanned sensors and reports from the field. These commanders benefit from a wide range of information supplied by sensors and cameras mounted on the ground, and manned or unmanned vehicles or soldiers. These devices examine the mission landscape and feed data to a forward base. Some of the data may be relayed to a Command Center where it is integrated with data from other sources.

Logistics is an area where multiple low-level sensors are already being used in defense. Currently, their deployment remains constrained to benign environments with infrastructure and human involvement. The military has already deployed some IoT technologies in non-combat scenarios in order to improve back-end processes. For example, RFID tags have been used to track shipments and manage inventories between central logistics hubs.

Fleet Monitoring and Management
Fleet monitoring can be represented by aircraft and ground vehicle fleets with on-board sensors that monitor performance and part status. For example, they track vehicle status and subsystems, and indicate when resupplying low-stock items (i.e., fuel or oil) is needed. Sensors would issue alerts, potentially reducing the risk of fatal failures. The aim is to facilitate condition-based maintenance and on-demand ordering of parts, reduce maintenance staff, and decrease unanticipated failures or unnecessary part replacements. Although IoT deployment carries up-front costs, it can enable significant long-term savings by transforming business processes across logistics. Defense has an opportunity to take advantage in the auto and industrial sectors, and exploit performance data on existing data links, like Blue Force Tracker transponders (already in place on many military vehicles) to limit new security risks. By extension, IoT-connected vehicles could also share information, for example, about available spare parts. Real-time fleet management includes geolocation, status monitoring, speed and engine status, total engine hours, fuel efficiency, and weight and cargo sensors. Besides, when tracking shipments, the position and status of the containers can be monitored to identify potential problems. Regarding aircraft, modern jet engines are equipped with sensors that produce several terabytes of data per flight. This information combined with in-flight data can improve engine performance to reduce fuel costs, detect minor faults or shorten travel duration. Furthermore, it enables preventive maintenance resulting in a long lifecycle (slowing or preventing breakage) and less downtime spent in repairs. The flight data can be tracked in real-time by operators and analysts on the ground.

Energy Management
The U.S. DoD is already reducing its demand on facility energy by investing in efficiency projects on its installations. The introduction of data and predictive algorithms can help to understand usage patterns better and significantly decrease military’s energy costs.

Main Challenges and Technical Limitations
There are significant challenges in the development and deployment of existing and planned military IoT systems. Nowadays, only a small number of military systems leverage the full advantages of IoT. Ongoing NATO Research Task Group (RTG) ’Military Applications of Internet of Things’ (IST-147) is examining a number of critical issues identified by the recommendations from two previous exploratory team activities: IST-ET-076, ’Internet of Military Things’ which examined topics relevant to the application of IoT technologies, and IST-ET-075, ’Integration of Sensors and Communication Networks’, which addressed networking issues. The deployment of IoT-related technologies is in segregated vertical stovepipes making it difficult to secure them, and limiting the ability to communicate across systems and generate synergies from different data sources. Main defense concerns include the dependence of manual entry, the limited processing of data, the lack of automation, and the fragmented IT architecture. Furthermore, nowadays the military does not have sufficient network connectivity on the battlefield to support broader IoT deployment. It will require key investments in several technical enablers according to its information value loop.

This is an excerpt of the journal article: A Review on Internet of Things for Defense and Public Safety, by Paula Fraga-Lamas, Tiago M. Fernández-Caramés, Manuel Suárez-Albela, Luis Castedo, and Miguel González-López. Published: October 5, 2016 in Sensors 16/10 (http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/16/10/1644) under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0). 

Paula Fraga-Lamas

Dr. Paula Fraga-Lamas is currently working with the Group of Electronic Technology and Communications (GTEC) at the University of A Coruña (UDC), Spain. Her research interests include mission-critical scenarios (public safety, disaster relief, defense and critical infrastructures such as railway, ports, or shipyards), 4G/5G technologies, signal processing, Internet of Things (IoT) and Cyber-Physical systems (CPS). She has also been participating in more than twenty research projects funded by the regional and national government as well as R+D contracts with private companies. Her expertise also includes business development, strategic planning, innovation, and technology transfer as well as postgraduate studies in business innovation management (Jean Monnet Chair of European Industrial Economy) and in corporate social responsibility and social innovation (INDITEX-UDC Chair).