Home Automation for the Battlefield

Home Automation for the Battlefield

Thanks to ubiquitous and mobile technology, such as smartphones and tablets, it is estimated that globally more than 1.1 trillion megabytes of data are created each day. Entire sectors of the economy are dedicated to figuring out how to best capture information, analyze it and exploit it for both good reasons and bad. We truly are in the Information Age.

The collection, processing, and integration of data within our daily lives are evolving so quickly it can be difficult to keep up. The commercial world once looked to the government and military – the originators of the Internet – for inspiration and innovation. However, it is now the government and military that turn to private industry to innovate at the speed of business, remain relevant, and stay ahead in a highly competitive marketplace of great power competition.

Modern software architectures and technologies are being driven by tech giants offering cloud computing, streaming video services, e-commerce, and others. These technologies include virtualization, containerization, open standards, and perhaps the least understood, event-driven architecture (EDA).

Open standards and EDA are areas where the government can greatly benefit from the thriving commercial cloud computing industry.  One of the best examples of EDA in everyday use is home automation.  Routine tasks providing us with security, convenience, and comfort that are simple to set up and run without us even thinking about them, actually rely on a larger, digital ecosystem that could not even exist 10 years ago. 

Undoubtedly, consumers can relate to these now commonplace examples:

Our smartphones automatically calculate the fastest route to work, providing the distance, the estimated time of arrival, and instant notifications of any accidents that occur in our path (followed by immediate adjustments to the ETA).

Closing the garage door triggers other events throughout the house such as the activation of an alarm, turning off all the lights, and setting the thermostat to save energy.

While at work, cameras employ computer vision algorithms that notify homeowners of package deliveries, water leaks in the basement, or attempted break-ins.

The phone learns that your workday lasts until 5:30 pm most days. With this information, it knows that when it connects to the car’s Bluetooth at 5:32 pm, it automatically suggests the fastest way home and can be set up to share your ETA with family. 

All of these actions are made possible by EDA that ties together all the systems of your phone – GPS, CPU, applications, and even the gyroscopes that determine the physical position of your phone – and interacts with running microservices existing in commercial clouds. 

These automated actions are made possible by data that is collected, structured, and tagged in standardized formats that make it artificial intelligence (AI) ready. So, even though our phones, tablets, and computers are made by a wide variety of manufacturers, they can simply write their code to a published standard, enabling the industry and the user base to drive innovation and new features in the marketplace. 

The convenience and efficiencies enabled by EDA would not exist without these open standards. Imagine if you had to go to your phone manufacturer every time you wanted to update software or integrate new applications into your phone. That probably would seem crazy, but up until recently, this is what military and space system operators were required to do whenever they wanted to upgrade applications or add new capabilities.

Thankfully, this is beginning to change as the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Intelligence Community increasingly adopt the same commercial technologies that consumers have been enjoying for years. They are incorporating EDA, such as the Hexicon Framework developed at Ball Aerospace, and it is vastly improving their capabilities

The same EDA that automates your home has countless applications in military and intelligence operations. On the battlefield, an unattended sensor might detect nearby movement, recognized by an algorithm to be a tank. This triggers a high fidelity sensor to scan the area for additional tanks.

Soldiers will carry smart canteens that report water consumption and trigger resupply missions when levels run low. In the air, the DoD’s Joint AI Center is already testing EDA on airplanes that will update base logistics about its maintenance and fuel status, which will then automatically initiate supply orders and notify mechanics of parts needing repair or replacement.

Without open standards, the advancements enabled by EDA would be nearly impossible to realize. In the past, adding a new capability, event or trigger would require the system integrator to first develop the new capability. Then they would have to take the entire system down to insert the new code or instructions, run tests and then get everything back up and running.

It no longer has to be this way. In demonstrations of Ball Aerospace’s Hexicon framework, we’ve shown how utilizing open standards and EDA allows application developers to rapidly and securely provide new capabilities and increase the functionality of existing systems. 

Much like the framework that underpins our favorite mobile devices, open-standard, EDA systems, such as those employing Hexicon, are only limited by the creativity of the developers and the needs of the warfighter. Combined with increasingly powerful machine learning tools, these frameworks not only reduce the need for traditional integrator/gatekeeper, but also relieves much of the Processing Exploitation and Dissemination (PED) burden from analysts and operators. The result: more data can be fused, processed, and shared, including data that was often missed or overlooked in the past; mission effectiveness increases; and operators, analysts, and leaders are free to focus on the more complex and extraordinary challenges impacting our nation’s security and the warfighter’s ability to go forward bravely and come home safely.

Weekly Brief

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