DARPA field tests tactical cloud software

Edge network software would turn mobile devices into battlefield servers.

The first phase of a networking effort that seeks to develop an alternative approach to “top-down” military networks tested whether individual soldiers can share information beyond the edge of networks.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said it has completed initial software testing of its Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking program designed to transmit intelligence and imagery on the battlefield via mobile devices. The effort aims to overcome the lack of battlefield connectivity by delivering content over a common operating environment down to the tactical level.

DARPA said the proposed architecture reverses the standard “hub-and-spoke” model that requires point-to-point communications to first go through a central server before it can be delivered to troops. If radios and other mobile devices are disconnected from headquarters, individual soldiers could still generate and share intelligence, improving a unit’s situational awareness.

DARPA said it recently completed field testing at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. The networking software was loaded on Android-based smartphones and Army radios.

The software allows each squad member’s mobile device to function as a server so that individuals could generate and distribute intelligence at the “tactical edge” where it is needed, the agency said. It also allows mobile devices within communications range of radios, Wi-Fi or other RF devices to automatically replicate and share intelligence updates. This “tactical cloud” would grow and diminish depending on troop movements.

Keith Gremban, DARPA program manager, said the program’s goal is to enable “real-time information sharing where it hasn’t been possible before” by putting “secure, private collaboration and cloud storage in your pocket.”

DARPA said field testing also identified areas for further trials, including improved security and more efficient information exchange. The next phase of testing will seek to reduce the number of transmissions required, an upgrade that would save power and reduce bandwidth requirements.