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research and development

After the Storm: Calm or Paralysis?

July 9, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

The 2013 U.S. Defense Department’s budget woes have been called “the perfect storm,” but it’s time to come out of the storm cellar.

Tag Teaming Big Data

August 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Two closely related science and technology programs aim to improve image location and search capabilities, saving intelligence analysts significant time and effort.

Data Restrictions Cause Europe to Lag in Research Efforts

August 1, 2014
By Rita Boland

Mining big data for salient information points presents a plethora of challenges, but in Europe a different issue with the action has emerged as a concern. Regulations prohibiting researchers and others from searching through the data in certain documents are putting countries on the continent at a competitive disadvantage in a number of fields, studies are revealing. With several economies there already in dire straits, the legal encumbrances could add to difficulties in improving financial situations.

The report, “Standardisation in the Area of Innovation and Technological Development, Notably in the Field of Text and Data Mining” lays out the problems of restricting mining in texts. It explains that because text- and data-mining technology is relatively affordable, it is available even to individual and small-organization researchers. The document was produced by an expert group appointed by the European Commission. That government body or its departments establish these groups to provide advice and expertise. They include at least six public- and/or private-sector members who meet more than once.

The personnel chosen for this particular task write in their report that “There is growing recognition that we are at the threshold of the mass automation of service industries (automation of thinking) comparable with the robotic automation of manufacturing production lines (automation of muscle) in an earlier era. [Text and data mining] will be widely used to provide insights in the redesign of this digital services economy. When it comes to the deployment of [text and data mining], there are worrying signs that European researchers may be falling behind, especially with regard to researchers in the United States.”

Tackling Big Data With Small Projects

August 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Army officials envision a future in which ground and air platforms share data and where soldiers at a remote forward-operating base easily can access information from any sensor in the area, including national satellites or reconnaissance aircraft flying overhead.

U.S. Army Explores Push-Button Networking

August 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Army’s current tactical network delivers a wide range of capabilities for warfighters, including unprecedented communications on the move. But the complexity can overwhelm commanders who have countless critical tasks to complete and soldiers’ lives in their hands. Future tactical networks will automate many processes and may be smart enough to advise commanders, similar to JARVIS, Iron Man’s computerized assistant.

The Army’s current networking technology includes Capability Set 13, a package of network components, associated equipment and software that provides an integrated capability from the tactical operations center to the dismounted soldier. It supports Army warfighters in Afghanistan and provides a host of capabilities not offered by the wide area network in use as recently as 2012. The Army has fielded the capability set down to the company commander level with a package known as the Soldier Network Extension, which delivers some challenges along with the added capabilities. “The company commander is trying to maneuver around the battlefield, and he’s trying to command a company, and he has these new pieces of kit that he has to learn how to use, and it’s complicated. That’s part of the problem,” says Jennifer Zbozny, chief engineer for the Army Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical. “If you had an iPhone with an interface you didn’t understand, and you had to do a million things and log on a million different ways, you’d probably get tired of it and decide it’s not worth the effort.”

CERDEC Supports U.S. Army Effort to Modernize Crypto Devices

July 9, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

A U.S. Army team is modernizing legacy cryptographic equipment at bases around the world to safeguard military information shared on already overhauled tactical networks.

Federal Aviation Administration Approves First Unmanned Quadrotor

July 2, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The Instant Eye small unmanned aerial system received approval last Thursday from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be used by an energy company, which will conduct research, development and training to see if the system is practical for inspecting infrastructure such as pipelines, power lines and insulators on towers. It is the first unmanned quadrotor to receive FAA certification and may be the lightest aircraft ever certified. The approval opens the door for the system to be used for a wide range of commercial applications.

DARPA Program Aims to Help Counselors Spot Signs of Stress, PTSD

July 1, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

DARPA is funding a new program to help combat depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and military suicides. It has tools to analyze facial expressions, body gestures and speech, both content and delivery, and inform experts on a user’s psychological state of mind or alert them to behavioral changes that could indicate problems.

Defense Spectrum Community Aims for National Strategy

July 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Defense Department officials intend to complete a departmentwide spectrum strategy road map this month, which will make more frequencies available to warfighters, provide greater flexibility—especially for international operations—and ultimately allow warfighters to conduct their missions more effectively. At the same time, however, some are suggesting a nationwide strategy to allow for more innovative and effective spectrum management and sharing across government and industry.

The Defense Department released its spectrum strategy in February to address the ever-increasing demand for wireless spectrum to achieve national security goals. That strategy largely was written by personnel within the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Defense Spectrum Organization (DSO) in coordination with the office of the chief information officer for the Defense Department. Now, the two offices are working on a road map for implementing the strategy.

Concurrently, some are recommending development of a comprehensive, nationwide strategy for spectrum management affecting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and all other agencies as well as the commercial sector. “What we have is a spectrum structure within the United States that was first created by the Telecommunications Act of 1934. We have created a pretty rigid system. What we’re pushing for through our spectrum strategy are changes and innovative ways to operate spectrum,” says Stuart Timerman, DSO director. “We would like to see that adopted nationally to have a national spectrum strategy where the FCC, NTIA and all of the federal agencies and commercial industry would plan for the future.”

Military Trolls for Disruptive Technologies

July 1, 2014
By Rita Boland

The next big breakthrough to affect the U.S. military might come from a different country or industry altogether, and discovering it in emerging stages could provide advantages. Developers with the Defense Department have launched a pilot system that aims to find these potential game changers before they become full-blown trends. Along the way, the research will explore what criteria are necessary to perform such a task.

This system rolled out earlier in the year as part of the advancement of the Technology Watch and Horizon Scanning programs—two complementary efforts designed to identify emerging technologies but from different angles. The former tracks key technology buzzwords while the latter looks for emerging scientific concepts and technology applications with disruptive potential. The capabilities these projects seek to detect might be outside the defense realm or might have been previously considered too immature to have much relevance to the technical landscape. The researchers for these programs look more at the science and technology facets of a project than at the application-space adaptation.

The initiatives, which began two years ago, aim to identify emerging technologies that improve the work force or infrastructure, or that have potential enough to lead the department to sponsor research in new areas. “I mean those systems that change or could potentially change the way we do business,” says Brian Beachkofski, director, Office of Technical Intelligence for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Research and Engineering. What the military wants are developments that could alter operational constructs, not upgrade plug-and-play capabilities, he adds.

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