US defence agency DARPA is planning to harness the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) for military purposes.

With the US looking for increasingly innovative ways to gain an advantage in the battlefield, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is investing in the development of sensors and artificial intelligence systems that could facilitate the extraction and analysis of information from enemy devices and communication.

With information and intelligence becoming more and more key in the guerrilla warfare of the 21st century, tailored IoT systems could arm the US with the data needed to stay one step ahead.

DARPA research and funding has been partly responsible for plenty of technologies that are commonplace today. It played a part in the development of the internet, the precursor of what we now know as virtual reality, and modern global positioning systems (GPS).

Read more: US Air Force Mulls IoT Deployment

But DARPA is also looking into ways the IoT can be used in security networks in the case of an attack on US soil. A research program aimed at preventing attacks involving radiological “dirty bombs” and other nuclear threats has successfully developed and demonstrated a network of smartphone-sized mobile devices that can detect the tiniest traces of radioactive materials, according to a news post on the agency’s website.

“Combined with larger detectors along major roadways, bridges, other fixed infrastructure, and in vehicles, the new networked devices promise significantly enhanced awareness of radiation sources and greater advance warning of possible threats,” it said.

The news post from August 2016 read: “Combined with larger detectors along major roadways, bridges, other fixed infrastructure, and in vehicles, the new networked devices promise significantly enhanced awareness of radiation sources and greater advance warning of possible threats.”

Fighters become a part of the IoT

Graham Grose, Industry Director of the IFS Aerospace & Defence Centre of Excellence, pointed out that fighter jets are becomingly increasingly connected, and able to gather huge quantities of data from a single flight. 

“The military is no stranger to new technology,” he said. “Companies in the field have been taking advantage of 3D printing, wearable and virtual reality technology to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs – IoT included.”

“With IoT, inexpensive sensors can collect important flight data. For example, at the unveiling of the new Bombardier C series at the Paris Airshow last year, it was reported that the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G family engine has around 5000 sensors able to generate up to 10GB of data per second. This means a single twin-engine aircraft with an average flight time of 12 hours can be producing up to 844TB of data. To put this in perspective, it is estimated that Facebook accumulates around 600TB of data per day.”

Speaking to Internet of Business, Grose also highlighted the importance of separating useful data from the ‘noise’. “The next step is for the support of a maintenance system that can filter out the ‘noise’ and suggest actions that provide real business benefits,” he said. “In A&D, these include shortening flight times, optimising jet fuel consumption, improving engine efficiency and reducing maintenance time and cost.”