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research and development

Coping With the 
Big Data Quagmire

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

 

Researchers at one of the premier national laboratories in the United States are prepared to hand the Defense Department a prototype system that compresses imagery without losing the quality of vital data. The system reduces the volume of information; allows imagery to be transmitted long distances, even across faulty communications links; and allows the data to be analyzed more efficiently and effectively.

The Persistics computational system developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL) derives its name from the combination of two words: persistent surveillance. The system is designed to revolutionize the collection, communication and analysis of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data so that warfighters do not find themselves drowning in a swamp of too much information. The ground-based system has demonstrated 1,000 times compression of raw wide-area video collections from manned and unmanned aircraft and a tenfold reduction of pre-processed images. Standard video compression can achieve only a 30 times data reduction.

The existing data processing infrastructure for national security is not designed for the amounts of information being generated by unmanned aerial systems and other platforms. In addition, the communication bandwidth supporting data transmission for air to ground and the archive storage capability are too slow to support fast-turnaround human analysis, according to LLNL researchers. “These [ISR] cameras are picking up more data than we know what to do with, and there are not enough humans on the ground to analyze every pixel,” explains Sheila Vaidya, deputy program director, defense programs, Office of Strategic Outcomes, LLNL.

Soldiers See Through Steel

August 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Researchers are developing new ways of enabling troops inside personnel carriers to see their outside environment without increasing their vulnerability to hostile fire. The goal is to provide enhanced 360-degree situational awareness from sensors installed on a vehicle as well as from other off-board cameras in the area.

Service members sitting inside certain armor-protected military vehicles are often similar to sardines, encased in a metal box with no means for ascertaining their surroundings. These all-metal, no-window platforms put troops at a definite disadvantage, unable to eyeball threats or opportunities.

A rapid-development group is working to improve knowledge of the outside environment using a glass-pane alternative that fits onto the back door of such platforms. The team also has created a version that pulls in additional systems for even more data sharing.

The Virtual Window effort is an innovation project at the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research and Development Center (TARDEC). The premise behind such initiatives is to tackle problems through innovative means faster and at less expense than standard, high-dollar research programs. In the case of the Virtual Window, an industrial designer named James Scott drew an image on the back of an infantry carrier that would show occupants the environment on the other side of the ramp. Leadership quickly took to the idea, giving researchers the go-ahead to pursue it. “We looked at how to provide situational awareness visually without putting in actual glass,” explains Andrew Kerbrat, program manager for the effort.

New Touch Technology Has Sensitive Skin

July 26, 2013

Engineers at UC Berkeley have created a system of sensors on flexible plastic that reacts to pressure by lighting up. The new "e-skin" recognizes the amount of pressure and responds with a brighter or dimmer light accordingly.

The technology can be used to give robots a more precise sense of touch and also might be used to create interactive wallpapers or automobile dashboards.

What differentiates the e-skin from other touch sensor networks is its flexibility and interactivity, says Chuan Wang, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan State University. Wang participated in the research as a post-doctoral student at UC Berkeley, as part of a research team led by Ali Javey. Because the e-skin is pliable, it can be applied as a laminate to other surfaces.



You can view the e-skin in action here:

 

Utah State Awarded Research and Development Contract

July 22, 2013
George I. Seffers

 
Utah State University Research Foundation, North Logan, Utah, was awarded a contract with a maximum value of $12 million for research and development services in support of the Precision Lightweight Weapon and Sensor Mount program. The Army Contracting Command, Fort Eustis, Va., is the contracting activity (W911W6-13-D-0005). 

A Joint Environment Changes Everything

July 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Rear Adm. Robert Day Jr., USCG, assistant U.S. Coast Guard commandant for command, control, communications and information technology, sees the Joint Information Environment as an opportunity to resolve some of the most pressing information technology problems in the years to come as he faces a future with more challenges and fewer resources. He says a military-wide common operating environment will establish “enterprisewide mandates that programs cannot ignore.”

The admiral told the recent AFCEA Solutions Series–George Mason University Symposium, “Critical Issues in C4I,” the Joint Information Environment (JIE) will allow for more efficient system configurations and facilitate consolidation of the Coast Guard’s information technology work force. As the director of the U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command, he also is mindful that the JIE will improve his ability to control what devices are attached to the network, giving him, for example, the opportunity to quickly detect and order the removal of an unauthorized USB thumb drive inserted into a secure network computer.

Hewing to the reality of doing more with less, the admiral also told conference attendees that within the next eight months, the Coast Guard is expected to move to the U.S. Defense Department’s enterprise email system. Adm. Day stated that even though this move initially may cost more in some cases, the long-term benefits to the service will mitigate and justify some of those costs. In addition, acknowledging the futility of reinventing the wheel, he noted that the Coast Guard is adopting the U.S. Air Force’s Virtual Flight Bag, which replaces nearly 300 pounds of printed manuals and charts carried aboard aircraft by crews. Apple iPads will be loaded with digital copies of the same material.

Visual Information
 on Your Sleeve

July 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Recent developments in advanced materials bring the Army closer to next-generation displays for a new breed of warfighter mobile devices.

A coalition of military, academic and industry scientists is approximately one year away from the first working prototypes of mobile devices using newly developed flexible display technologies. The goal is to demonstrate that manufacturing the displays can be done economically, and in quantity, so that they can be widely adopted by mobile device makers, benefitting both the military and consumers. Project managers ultimately hope to introduce mobile devices that are lighter, more reliable and less expensive.

These displays could make possible small screens bearing important tactical information that would be worn on the sleeve of a soldier’s uniform. Another use might be as a pen that fits in a pocket but contains a roll-out display with maps and mission information. The technology even might enable rugged displays worn on the thigh of a field medic with the latest medical record information on the patient in front of him or her.

“The goal of the program is to speed development of flexible displays for the soldier,” says David Morton, program manager for flexible displays with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Maryland. “They had a recognized need for lightweight, rugged, flexible displays. And, although industry was working on it, the goal of the program was to speed the development so that the Army could get them sooner.”

The ARL is conducting the flexible display research and development in conjunction with Arizona State University and a growing list of industry and academic partners (see box, page 47). The focus of the nearly decade-long collaborative effort is the Flexible Display Center (FDC), located in Tempe, Arizona.

Sharing the 
Secrets of 
Cybersecurity

July 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Protection is as much about 
who you know as what you know.

The tasks critical to success in the realm of information assurance have become so robust that a breadth of expertise is now necessary to stop cybercriminals. To that end, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, opened a new research facility called the Cyber Engineering Research Laboratory to promote the collaboration required to safeguard networks. An accessible external location, coupled with a synergistic internal mindset, enables advancements and maturity of concepts essential to success in the cyber realm.

Unlike most of the larger laboratory that sits in a secure, restricted area, the smaller subordinate one is located in the open Sandia Science and Technology Park to facilitate access for private sector, university and other nonlaboratory personnel. Inside the facility, researchers from the disparate fields of cognitive science, network defense and analytics are working together to find solutions to cyberchallenges. “That’s a very powerful effect from a cross fertilization standpoint,” says Ben Cook, an acting senior manager in Sandia’s Information and Cognitive Sciences Group. Permanent staff at the Cyber Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) include established employees from other parts of the laboratory as well as incoming researchers.

U.S. Army Welcomes Two New Draft Horses to Supercomputing Stable

June 21, 2013
By Max Cacas

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, has unveiled two new supercomputers that are among the fastest and most powerful devices of their kind. The devices are part of a recently opened supercomputing center that is the new locus of the service’s use of high-speed computing not only for basic scientific research and development, but also to solve basic warfighter needs using the latest available technologies.

“The Army Research Lab is the largest user of supercomputing capacity,” says Dale Ormond, director, U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM). “To have a supercomputer there gives us a huge advantage as we move forward in our research and engineering mission,” he adds.

At the heart of the new Army supercomputer center are two IBM iDataPlex systems that are among the most powerful of their kind on the planet. “We have the ‘Pershing,’ which is the 62nd fastest computer in the world, and another one called ‘Hercules,’ which is the 81st (fastest),” he explains. The Pershing contains 20,160 central processing units (CPUs), 40 terabytes of memory, and operates at 420 teraflops. The Hercules has 17,472 CPUs, 70 terabytes of memory, and operates at 360 teraflops.

The $5 million dollar center also features state-of-the-art electrical supply systems designed to support supercomputing, and special cooling systems designed to manage the heat that comes from all the CPUs that make up both supercomputers. The new facility has over 20,000 square foot of space, which will eventually house as many as six large supercomputing systems by 2016.

Pershing and Hercules join other Army supercomputers run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, Mississippi, along with supercomputers operated by the Navy and Air Force.

Intelligence Taps Industry for Essential Technologies

May 22, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

James Bond’s U.S. counterpart may be equipped more with commercial technologies than with systems developed in intelligence community laboratories. The private sector will be called upon to provide even more capabilities to help keep the intelligence community ahead of adversaries and budget cuts.

Nanosatellites STARE at Space Junk

May 17, 2013
By George I. Seffers

 

 

 

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