October 8, 2015
By Bob Gourley
The iCub humanoid robot at IDSIA's robotics lab in Switzerland tries to reach for a blue cup.

Remember this scene from The Graduate?
Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

Turns out, plastics was pretty hot. Great tip, Mr. McGuire. I wonder what, if anything, Benjamin did with that tip. More importantly, what is the one word for today?

I think I have it. The word is Cambric. Cambric the finely woven linen? No, CAMBRIC the finely woven acronym:

October 1, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
Soldiers from the Fort Benning, Georgia, Experimental Force, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, assess capabilities on mobile devices during a field-based risk-reduction event at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

Mobility plays a salient role as the U.S. Army refashions itself into a leaner, more expeditionary force. In a few short years, military commanders will direct entire battles with mere finger swipes on handheld tablets or even smaller devices. From their palms, warrior leaders will know the precise positions of ground forces, air assets, unmanned sensors, medics and more—all part of a concept in motion to modernize the service over the next decade and beyond.

October 1, 2015
By George I. Seffers
A U.S. Army staff sergeant observes the area around Forward Operating Base Torkham, Afghanistan, while wearing a new communications suite. The Communications and Human Networks program strives to improve mobile ad hoc networking for future warfighters.

A comprehensive U.S. Army research program pursues a greater fundamental understanding of how networks function. The program’s intent is to expand knowledge, paving the way for new mobile ad hoc protocols and improving the service’s ability to deliver information to decision makers on and off the battlefield.

September 30, 2015
By George I. Seffers
Researchers predict the optical rectina, which converts light to direct current, could be a game changer.

Using nanometer-scale components, researchers have demonstrated the first optical rectenna, a device that combines the functions of an antenna and a rectifier diode to convert light directly into direct current electricity.

Based on multiwall carbon nanotubes and tiny rectifiers fabricated onto them, optical rectennas could provide a new technology for photodetectors that would operate without the need for cooling and energy harvesters that would convert waste heat to electricity. The technology also could ultimately result in a new way to efficiently capture solar energy.

September 29, 2015
By Justin Marston
Derived credentials are the latest attempt to address the challenge of mobile authentication.

One ring to rule them all,
One ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all,
And in the darkness bind them. –
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

If you are not a fan of The Lord of the Rings, the executive summary is that you can simplify life and improve security for derived credentials if you only distribute one authorized credential, used by a thin client to access a centralized virtual operating system that holds all the other keys. For those with an appetite for a mystical romp through Middle Earth involving magical keys and rings, I suggest you place your tongue firmly in cheek and proceed.

September 28, 2015
By George I. Seffers
More than 500,000 pieces of debris, or “space junk,” are tracked as they orbit the Earth. They all travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft.

The Space Fence System, including the large-scale digital radar and turn-key facility, were deemed technically mature and provided evidence that all requirements will be met through the program's critical design review (CDR) conducted by the U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the program, has announced. 

The Space Fence S-band radar system design will detect, track and catalog space debris more than 1.5 million times a day to predict and prevent space-based collisions. The three-day CDR featured the demonstration of a small-scale system built with end-item components that detected and tracked orbiting space objects. 

September 22, 2015
By Bob Fortna

The Defense Department stands at a technological and financial crossroads, needing to accelerate the proliferation of new networks and applications while heeding budgetary concerns.

As such, department officials are looking carefully at software-defined networking (SDN) and the potential the method provides as a key foundation of the Joint Information Environment (JIE). SDN lets agencies build more flexible, consolidated and efficient networks, while spinning up new applications and tools faster.

“We have to embrace the software-defined mission of where we have to go with the networks,” Defense Department Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen said at the 2014 Federal Forum when discussing the JIE.

September 16, 2015
By George I. Seffers
The Lawrence Livermore-Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute agreement to promote supercomputing supports President Barack Obama's plan to spur the economy.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will combine decades of expertise to help American industry and businesses expand use of high performance computing (HPC) to help fuel the economy.

Livermore and Rensselaer look to bridge the gap between the levels of computing conducted at their institutions and the typical levels found in industry. Scientific and engineering software applications capable of running on HPC platforms are a prime area of interest.

September 16, 2015
By David E. Meadows
Two soldiers practice using electronic warfare equipment during a joint training exercise. EW often is overlooked, but its importance is increasing with advances in electronics.

It is not easy to find a lot of current material on electronic warfare (EW), but I have always believed it can be reduced to two basic elements.

First, the military force must own the EW frequency spectrum upon which both it and its adversary operate while maintaining the capability to operate freely in it. Alan Shaffer, who was the Defense Department research and engineering chief, a year ago told an audience at the Press Club, “We have lost the electromagnetic spectrum. That’s a huge deal when you think about fielding advanced systems that can be countered by a very, very cheap digital jammer.”

September 14, 2015
Maryann Lawlor

Nearly everyone has heard a parent or grandparent refer to the good ol’ days. Tales usually begin either with “When I was your age…” or “In my day, we didn’t have….” While it seems appropriate that octogenarians and nonagenarians tell such stories, today they’re not the only generations sharing memories that begin with, “When I was young….” People in their 20s and 30s reflect on their youth wistfully because members of the younger generation—who, by the way, are only five or 10 years younger than they are—can communicate, play, buy and sell, and share life moments in ways that surprise even 20-somethings.

September 14, 2015
By Sandra Jontz

The ease at which criminals can reverse engineer software makes for lucrative transgressions with national security implications, prompting government-backed researchers to seek innovations to shore up vulnerabilities, officials say.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, turned to academia and awarded a multiyear mission to develop obfuscation technology to better safeguard software intellectual property, both for commercial and government endeavors. The aim of DARPA’s SafeWare program is to find a solution that would render the software, such as proprietary algorithms, incomprehensible to a reverse engineer.

September 11, 2015
By B. Scott Swann
Courtesy CanStockPhoto via MorphoTrak

The time is quickly approaching when video analytics no longer will be an afterthought for supporting investigations or categorized as a nice-to-have. Brute force procedures traditionally used by law enforcement are not effective for handling massive amounts of video and images. In fact, the problem of daunting volumes of video handled by criminal justice organizations today is compounded by heightened public perception that digital evidence must be processed quickly, and increasingly, juries expect to see video presented during trials. Law enforcement executives jest that if a crime is not caught on video, as far as courts are concerned, it didn’t happen.

September 10, 2015
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. government wants in on the resurgence of developments in contactless biometric technology, seeing smart applications of such devices in places such as airport security. But before device deployment, officials need to make sure the scanners and sensors actually do what they say they do—safely and accurately.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is working with a handful of private companies to develop data format standards, best practices and methods for certification testing on new products before any can be used.

September 8, 2015
By Justin Marston

"She’ll need a totem. Some kind of personal icon. A small object that you can always have with you, and that no one else knows. ... I can’t let you handle it. That’s the point. No one else can know the weight or balance of it. So when you examine your totem ... you know, beyond a doubt, that you’re not in someone else’s dream." – Arthur in Inception (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2010)

September 2, 2015
By George I. Seffers
MUOS-4 will enable near-global coverage for a new secure military communications network offering enhanced capabilities for mobile forces.

The U.S. Navy’s fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-4) satellite is talking from space to the satellite control team at the Naval Spacecraft Operations Control facility after its Florida launch this morning. MUOS-4 will enable near-global coverage for a new secure military communications network offering enhanced capabilities for mobile forces.

September 1, 2015
By George I. Seffers

Electrical and computer engineers at North Carolina State University have developed a new technique for creating less-expensive, low-power embedded computing devices useful in everything from thermostats to automobiles and a wide range of defense or security-related systems.

The researchers made two prototype systems with power converters using the new technique and compared them to dozens of other compatible power converters on the market. They found that none of the other converters could match the prototypes’ combination of low cost and high efficiency.

September 1, 2015
By Bill Lemons

While federal agencies undertake laudable efforts to consolidate and modernize data centers, security remains an underlying concern that keeps information technology administrators awake at night. A survey by government research firm MeriTalk, sponsored by General Dynamics Information Technology and Juniper Networks, showed nearly half of the respondents believe the government’s data center modernization process increased cybersecurity challenges.

September 1, 2015
By George I. Seffers
Foreign governments express interest in the V-22 variants along with a number of platforms developed, deployed and sustained by the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Special Operations Forces.

Delivering technologies in two high-demand mission areas—special operations and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance—is a tough job. But Col. Michael Schmidt, USAF, says he’s glad to do it.

Col. Schmidt took over last year as the U.S. Air Force program executive officer (PEO) for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and special operations forces (SOF). The job title does not include rotary wing aircraft, but arguably it could, because the office assumed responsibility for that portfolio about three years ago.

September 1, 2015
By Sandra Jontz

The latest methods of identity verification might border on intrusive as behavioral biometrics continues to evolve. Tactics range from what some might consider simple measurements of keystroke dynamics to cutting-edge future solutions that could constantly monitor a user’s breathing or eye movements.

The ever-growing amount of sensitive data being generated, punctuated by recent breaches showing just how vulnerable that information is to attacks, spurred both federal agencies and the private sector to find ways to safeguard their networks better. But superior security also might mean better insight into users, leaving even more telling information vulnerable to theft or espionage.

September 1, 2015
By Daniel DuBravec

Early this year, violent floods brought immense destruction to communities in the Zambezia province of central Mozambique, Africa, endangering thousands of children and adults. Floods ravaged the region, decimating roads and bridges; 70 percent were unusable for ground vehicles, and some were unmanageable even by foot. In the absence of electrical power and a way to resupply gasoline for generators, refrigerated vaccines became unusable. Furthermore, damaged roadways meant that much-needed supplies never arrived.