The future of military combat is going high-tech as scientists create an Internet of Things for combat gear embedded with biometric wearables to help soldiers identify the enemy, perform better in battle, and access devices and weapons systems using speedy edge computing.
Recently, the United States Army Research Lab awarded $25 million to the Alliance for Internet of Battlefield Things Research on Evolving Intelligent Goal-driven Networks (IoBT REIGN) to develop new predictive battlefield analytics.
Researchers say one key element of healthy IoBT/IoMT is a strong edge architecture that uses biometrics, environmental sensors, and other connected devices to send and receive data quickly, allowing military personnel to respond to potentially dangerous situations on the battlefield.
What is the Internet of Military/Battlefield Things (IoMT IoBT)?
The Internet of Things has strong military applications, connecting ships, planes, tanks, drones, soldiers, and operating bases in a cohesive network that increases situational awareness, risk assessment, and response time.
It will also produce a huge amount of data.
“The Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT) involves the full realization of pervasive sensing, pervasive computing, and pervasive communication, leading to an unprecedented scale of information produced by the networked sensors and computing units,” says new research entitled “Context Aware Ubiquitous Biometrics in Edge of Military Things” in IEEE Cloud Computing.
“Integrating signals from a diverse and dynamic set of sensors, including static ground sensors and soldiers worn sensors, represents one among the several critical challenges facing the implementation of IoT solutions on a battlefield,” the authors say.
In the Internet of Military Things (IoMT) or Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT), the sensing and computing devices worn by soldiers and embedded in their combat suits, helmets, weapons systems, and other equipment are capable of acquiring a variety of static and dynamic biometrics such as their face, iris, periocular space, fingerprints, heart rate, gait, gestures, and facial expressions.
In the video above, engineering simulation firm ANSYS, which was awarded a $413,624 federal contract this year from the U.S. Army Contracting Command for the upgrade and maintenance of Enterprise Level Fluent software, illustrates how the IoT-connected soldier functions on the battlefield.
“Such devices may also be capable of collecting operational context data. These data collectively can be used to perform context-adaptive authentication in-the-wild and continuous monitoring of soldier’s psychophysical condition in a dedicated edge computing architecture,” write researchers Aniello Castiglione and Michele Nappi of the University of Salerno, Kim-Kwan Raymond Choo of the University of Texas San Antonio, and Stefano Ricciardi of the University of Molise.
Why edge computing is critical to IoMT/IoBT
The key to a sound edge architecture is split-second timing. The number of connected sensors and the huge amount of data that must be processed can quickly overload the system.
That’s why the researchers recommend an architecture equipped with intelligent data filters, edge device regulation, and network infrastructure upgrades to increase maximum bandwidth.
“IoBT involves the full realization of pervasive sensing, pervasive computing, and pervasive communication, leading to an unprecedented scale of information produced by the networked sensors and computing units. Integrating signals from a diverse and dynamic set of sensors, including static ground sensors and soldiers worn sensors, represents one among the several critical challenges facing the implementation of IoT solutions on a battlefield,” write the authors.
Identifying the enemy
In asymmetric warfare, it isn’t always easy to identify enemy combatants. They can appear as civilians or access restricted military bases with a stolen badge.
Now, sensors can scan irises, fingerprints, and other biometric data to identify individuals who might pose a danger. Edge computing allows, for example, fingerprints from a weapon or bomb to be uploaded to the network and used to identify a combatant instantly. It can also confirm the identity of a target so a sniper can take him out.
“The overall amount of information gathered by a wide set of heterogeneous Internet-connected devices deployed on the future battlefield could possibly make the difference in terms of strategical advantage.”
“A context-based paradigm has been proposed for improving person authentication accuracy by means of a single identifier, such as facial, gait, fingerprint, gestures, as well as by exploiting multiple biometrics. Other known applications include activity recognition and user’s behavior analysis aimed at enhancing the quality of the services provided by a network of devices located in the surrounding environment,” the authors write.
Monitoring soldiers’ physical and mental state
Biometrics aren’t just limited to identifying combatants. Sensors embedded in military uniforms and helmets can send information to a command center about a soldier’s physical condition, helping him or her survive otherwise lethal enemy attacks.
For example, pilots under g-force conditions or soldiers exposed to toxic chemicals can receive assistance.
“Context-aware biometrics may contribute to fully realize the IoBT potential by augmenting the available information exchanged among the various kinds of devices with supplementary physical (heart rate, body temperature or thermal distribution, etc.), and behavioral (body dynamic patterns, speech patterns, etc.) user data, useful for inferring physiological and emotional conditions of soldiers on the field which could be valuable for critical situation evaluation, and decisional activity,” say the authors.
Syncing soldiers with weapons systems and other devices
Edge computing can help soldiers gain access to vehicles and weapons systems as well as monitor battlefield conditions through, for example, connected drones.
“Context information may also be valuable to achieve performance optimization and operational adaptation of biometric systems implementing ubiquitous user authentication/monitoring on mobile hardware architectures (in IoMT and IoBT devices that can function as a smart and mobile cyberweapon). In this scenario, context data may also include information about the surrounding environment or terrain, lighting conditions, soldier physical status (e.g., collected via sensors embedded in the combat suit), and ongoing activity (in motion or at rest, such as a sniper quietly waiting for a target to present itself), and so on,” the authors say.
Research related to biometrics in the Computer Society Digital Library:
- Defensive Biometrics
- Situational Awareness through Biometrics
- Continuous Authentication Using Behavioral Biometrics
- Biometrics in Identity Management Systems
About Lori Cameron
Lori Cameron is Senior Writer for IEEE Computer Society publications and digital media platforms with over 20 years of technical writing experience. She is a part-time English professor and winner of two 2018 LA Press Club Awards. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on LinkedIn.