Wearable Tactical System Provides Location Information SecurelyMay 2012
Topics: Command and Control, Geographic Information Systems, Radio Communications
For the dismounted soldier, an effective and affordable tactical radio is critical for establishing communications with the commander. In a battlefield environment, for example, situational awareness information must be passed up a chain of command from rifleman to team leader to squad leader and then into the network.
This "last tactical mile" in the radio network between the soldier and the commander is critical for tactical information sharing and enhancing situational awareness. The challenge is that an infantry network typically operates at a lower classification level than a platoon's command and control network. The result is that those in the best position to share situational awareness information cannot share it with a platoon-level classified network.
In August 2010, the Pentagon's Joint Requirements Oversight Council released recommendations on tactical information classification and security. A month later MITRE convened a technical exchange meeting to address the impact of these recommendations. "The basis of the issue is getting today's smartphone technology into the hands of the soldiers to enhance situation awareness, make collection of mission command data more efficient, make that data shareable, and provide opportunities for collaborations," says Bob McKee, technical integrator in MITRE's Army Programs Directorate.
Providing a Common Operating Picture
For several years, a team of MITRE staff has been evaluating commercial off-the-shelf technology for applications that would be useful to the dismounted soldier. They first studied pertinent information assurance requirements—the set of measures designed to protect and defend an information system—as well as related technical issues. They then developed a small, affordable device to move data from an unclassified radio network directly to a classified radio network without putting the secure network at risk. "This approach ensures information assurance at lower size, power, and cost," says Patrick DeShazo, head of MITRE's Combat and Command Air Force Space Security department.
Known as a Wearable One-Way Transfer (WOWT) device, this technology enables a common operating picture to be developed at both the infantry and platoon leader levels. Approximately the same length as a number two pencil, the team designed the WOWT device to be worn by a squad leader or platoon leader. "We believe this device has immediate applications for both the Army and Marine Corps," says McKee. "It adds an important level of infantry-based situation awareness for platoon leaders."
A Patented Solution with AA Batteries
Research on the WOWT device began in 2008. Ironically, one of the main design challenges was to provide enough room for two AA batteries. The team selected that size because it's readily available worldwide. The two batteries, which are user changeable, provide power for at least 12 hours. Since the device gives off no heat or visible light, it's especially appropriate for a combat environment.
At the request of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command, the team licensed the device to several companies, including Sypris Electronics and ViaSat. In addition, MITRE applied for a patent on the WOWT device, which was granted in February 2012.
"Building, testing, and fielding the WOWT device was an extremely rewarding activity," says DeShazo. "It provides infantry soldiers with an entirely new level of situation awareness information that was previously unavailable."