he U.S. Army Research Laboratory recently announced the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Pennsylvania as lead research organizations for two enterprise research programs that will address challenges the military faces in internet-connected, robot-rich congested and contested battlefields.
Through its Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT) Collaborative Research Alliance, the Army has assembled a team to conduct basic and applied research involving the explosive growth of interconnected sensing and actuating technologies that include distributed and mobile communications, networks of information-driven devices, and artificially intelligent services, and how ubiquitous “things” present imposing adversarial challenges for the Army. Alliance members leading IoBT research areas include UIUC, University of Massachusetts, University of California-Los Angeles and University of Southern California. Other members include Carnegie Mellon University, University of California Berkeley and SRI International.
Through its Distributed and Collaborative Intelligent Systems (DCIST) Collaborative Research Alliance (CRA), the Army will perform enabling basic and applied research to extend the reach, situational awareness, and operational effectiveness of large heterogeneous teams of intelligent systems and Soldiers against dynamic threats in complex and contested environments and provide technical and operational superiority through fast, intelligent, resilient and collaborative behaviors. Alliance members include the University of Pennsylvania as the lead research organization. Individual research area leads are MIT and Georgia Tech. Other consortium members are University of California San Diego, University of California Berkeley and University of Southern California.
The U.S. Army’s operational competitive advantage in a multi-domain battle will be realized through technology dominance, said ARL Director Dr. Philip Perconti.
“Given the complexity of the world and the uncertainties in the world, our biggest priority is ensuring the Army has options available from a materiel point of view – from a technology point of view – where we’ve reduced uncertainty with technology and identified risk for the operational leadership around issues like the emergence of autonomous systems on the battlefield, for example, so they can make informed decisions about emerging warfighting capability needs 20 to 40 years from now,” said Perconti. From a foundational research point of view, he said ARL develops new research programs, including IoBT and DCIST, to fill gaps in scientific knowledge needed to ensure overmatch.
According to recently published ARL documents on IoBT, the battlespace itself will consist of active enemy, friendly, and non-participant information-driven resources capable of affecting the physical world, where deception will be the norm, resource ownership and other boundaries will be diverse and transient, and the operational environment – whether megacities or rural – will be dynamic. These IoBT characteristics all translate into increased complexity for the warfighter, particularly because current, commonly available, interconnected “things” will exist in the battlefield and be increasingly intelligent, obfuscated, and pervasive. The objective of the IoBT CRA is to develop the underlying science of pervasive, heterogeneous sensing and actuation to enhance tactical Soldier and Mission Command autonomy, miniaturization, and information analytic capabilities against adversarial influence and control of the information battlespace; delivering intelligent, agile, and resilient decisional overmatch at significant standoff and op-tempo.
The IoBT CRA consists of three main research areas: Device/Information Discovery, Composition, and Adaptation to establish theoretical foundations that facilitate goal-driven discovery, adaptation, and composition of devices and data at unprecedented scale, complexity, and rate of acquisition; Autonomous & Autonomic Actuation Enabling Intelligent Services to advance the theory and algorithms for complexity and nonlinear dynamics of real-time actuation and robustness with a focus on autonomic system properties (e.g. self-optimizing, self-healing and self-protecting behaviors); and Distributed Asynchronous Processing and Analytics of Things to enrich the theory and experimental methods for complex event processing, with compact representations and efficient pattern evaluation.
Working in tandem with this effort is DCIST, which will advance the theoretical foundations of intelligent systems science and help fulfill the research and development goals of the U.S. Department of the Army. The objective of this CRA is to perform enabling basic and applied research to extend the reach, situational awareness, and operational effectiveness of large heterogeneous teams of intelligent systems and Soldiers against dynamic threats in complex and contested environments and provide technical and operational superiority through fast, intelligent, resilient and collaborative behaviors.
DCIST concentrates its research into three main areas: distributed intelligence, led by MIT, where researchers will establish the theoretical foundations of multi-faceted distributed networked intelligent systems combining autonomous agents, sensors, tactical super-computing, knowledge bases in the tactical cloud, and human experts to acquire and apply knowledge to affect and inform decisions of the collective team; heterogeneous group control, let by Georgia Tech, to develop theory and algorithms for control of large autonomous teams with varying levels of heterogeneity and modularity across sensing, computing, platforms, and degree of autonomy; and adaptive and resilient behaviors, led by the University of Pennsylvania, to develop theory and experimental methods for heterogeneous teams to carry out tasks under the dynamic and varying conditions in the physical world. In addition to these three main research areas, research will be pursued along three underlying research themes in Learning, Autonomous Networking, and Cross Disciplinary Experimentation.
CRAs are partnerships between Army laboratories and centers, private industry and academia that are focusing on the rapid transition of innovative technologies to the Warfighter to enable the Army’s Future Force. The collaboration between industry, academia and the government is a key element of the alliance concept as each member brings with it a distinctly different approach to research. Academia is known for its cutting-edge innovation; the industrial partners are able to leverage existing research results for transition and to deal with technology bottlenecks; the Army Research Laboratory’s researchers keep the program oriented toward solving complex Army technology problems. Thus multidisciplinary research teams are generating the complex technology needed to solve the Army’s complex problems. This approach enables an Alliance to bring together world class research and development talent and focus it on Army-specific technology objectives for application to Army needs.