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Archive for the ‘Digitization’ Category

Army Modernizes Its Biometric Processing Capabilities

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — U.S. Army Soldiers patrolling critical checkpoints overseas will have an improved biometrics tool to help identify persons of interest in real time.

Army Futures Command’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center has developed and delivered software that will enable Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S) to modernize the Army’s 20-year-old biometric processing capabilities.

The Biometrics Automated Toolset — Army (BAT-A) is a handheld device used by deployed Soldiers to collect, process and reference biometric identity information — such as iris, fingerprint and facial images — during force protection screenings.

With the system deployed to U.S. joint forces around the world and more than one million entries saved in the DoD’s Automated Biometrics Identification System, it is important to migrate BAT-A to a database that will meet the government’s new electronic biometric transmission specifications, explained Brian D. Likens, product lead for the Biometrics Collection Capability at PEO IEW&S’ Project Manager Department of Defense Biometrics (PM DoD Biometrics).

“We asked the C5ISR Center to make the database more efficient and useful for tomorrow’s Soldier. To do this, they restructured the data to comply with future standards and modern architecture practices,” Likens said.

The new database software architecture will improve the overall speed and functionality of the tool so Soldiers can access better filtered information, noted Will Daddario, a software engineer with the C5ISR Center.

“In the past, superfluous information had the ability to make its way up and into the BAT-A database. That will not happen anymore. You are now going to have a database with improved integrity that will be easier to use,” Daddario said.

The architecture will also make future software development work easier.

“Previously, all database relationships were performed by the application. Our new database has all of these relationships built in, so when you make a change in one area, it propagates through the whole database,” Daddario said.

The C5ISR Center delivered a data conversion tool with the architecture and plans to deliver data migration and filter tools in Fiscal Year 2021 before helping the PM migrate the data. The Center is also slated to support PM DoD Biometrics throughout the development of the Next Generation Biometric Collection Capability.

“The need for accurate and timely data is vital to the protection of our warfighters in support of Multi-Domain Operations. This updated database will make it more efficient for warfighters to collect, identify and neutralize the enemy,” said Col. Senodja “Frank” Sundiata-Walker, project manager for PM DoD Biometrics.

By Douglas Scott

Rare-Earth Element Material Could Produce World’s Smallest Transistors

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A material from a rare earth element, tellurium, could produce the world’s smallest transistor, thanks to an Army-funded project.

Computer chips use billions of tiny switches called transistors to process information. The more transistors on a chip, the faster the computer.

A project at Purdue University in collaboration with Michigan Technological University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Texas at Dallas, found that the material, shaped like a one-dimensional DNA helix, encapsulated in a nanotube made of boron nitride, could build a field-effect transistor with a diameter of two nanometers. Transistors on the market are made of bulkier silicon and range between 10 and 20 nanometers in scale.

“This research reveals more about a promising material that could achieve faster computing with very low power consumption using these tiny transistors,” said Joe Qiu, program manager for the Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, which funded this work. “That technology would have important applications for the Army.”

The Army-funded research is published in the journal Nature Electronics. The Army is focused on integration, speed and precision to ensure the Army’s capability development process is adaptable and flexible enough to keep pace with the rate of technology change.

“This tellurium material is really unique. It builds a functional transistor with the potential to be the smallest in the world,” said Dr. Peide Ye, Purdue’s Richard J. and Mary Jo Schwartz Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

One way to shrink field-effect transistors, the kind found in most electronic devices, is to build the gates that surround thinner nanowires. These nanowires are protected within nanotubes.

Ye and his team worked to make tellurium as small as a single atomic chain and then build transistors with these atomic chains or ultrathin nanowires.

They started off growing one-dimensional chains of tellurium atoms, and were surprised to find that the atoms in these one-dimensional chains wiggle. These wiggles were made visible through transmission electron microscopy imaging performed at the University of Texas at Dallas and at Purdue.

“Silicon atoms look straight, but these tellurium atoms are like a snake. This is a very original kind of structure,” Ye said.

The wiggles were the atoms strongly bonding to each other in pairs to form DNA-like helical chains, then stacking through weak forces called van der Waals interactions to form a tellurium crystal.

These van der Waals interactions set apart tellurium as a more effective material for single atomic chains or one-dimensional nanowires compared with others because it’s easier to fit into a nanotube, Ye said.

Because the opening of a nanotube cannot be any smaller than the size of an atom, tellurium helices of atoms could achieve smaller nanowires and, therefore, smaller transistors.

The researchers successfully built a transistor with a tellurium nanowire encapsulated in a boron nitride nanotube. A high-quality boron nitride nanotube effectively insulates tellurium, making it possible to build a transistor.

“Next, the researchers will optimize the device to further improve its performance, and demonstrate a highly efficient functional electronic circuit using these tiny transistors, potentially through collaboration with ARL researchers,” Qiu said.

In addition to the Army Research Office, the National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency partly funded the work.

By U.S. Army CCDC Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs

‘milDrive’ Offers DoD More Secure Cloud Storage Solution

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Defense Information Systems Agency has been offering “milDrive,” a cloud-based storage solution for desktop users, for nearly a year.

The cloud service already has about 18,000 users across 20 organizations, the program manager said.

“There’s quite a large user base in the queue right now that’s interested, and we are currently piloting with and developing a migration strategy for them,” said Carissa Landymore. “The need is definitely there.”

The milDrive service is available for users on DODIN, the unclassified Defense Department information network.

Users often store files on network drives so they can be shared with others within their organizations. The milDrive service gives users that ability, and it also allows them to access files from any common access card-enabled computer on the network and from their government cell phones and tablets. Typically, network shared drives only allow users to access files when they are on their home network.

Unlike other cloud-service solutions in use by some DOD agencies, milDrive allows users to store files that contain personally identifiable information, personal health information and “for official use only” information because the storage for milDrive is maintained by DISA, rather than by a commercial provider, Landymore said.

“From a security perspective, all the data is always encrypted, in transit and at rest,” she said. “So, it’s always providing that extra blanket of security.”

Also, unlike with typical network shares, milDrive users can grant access to their files to any milDrive user in the Defense Department, Landymore said. Users can even share files with other DOD personnel who don’t have milDrive access through a web-based interface. And unlike some web-based cloud service solutions, milDrive is thoroughly integrated into the desktop environment, which means users can create, read and manipulate files stored in the cloud using the software already installed on their desktop computers.

“It’s completely integrated and transparent on your desktop,” she said. “It’s the same traditional look and feel as Windows File Explorer and used like any other location to open or save files.

Landymore said DISA offers 1 terabyte or 20 gigabyte licenses for individual users. Both licenses cost less than $10 a month. Organizations can also order “team drives” starting at 1 TB. As with traditional network shares; milDrive “Team Folders” allow organizations the ability to collaborate traditionally with the added benefits of online and offline access, mobility and portability of group data they do not have today.

Guidance from the DOD chief information officer and DISA direction is going in the direction of the cloud, Landymore said. “MilDrive is going to help the department get there faster,” she said. “It’s going to help folks immediately migrate off their end-of-service-life equipment right onto another service that DISA is already invested into. We’ve made that investment to really help the department long-term, getting to a cloud solution and realizing our cost savings with economies of scale.”

Jeremiah Collins, the information technology services deputy director at Army Futures Command in Austin, Texas, said milDrive has provided the command with cost savings over traditional storage solutions and a reduction in workload for a limited information technology staff.

Army Futures Command stood up in July 2018, and Collins said the command has used milDrive as its storage solution from the start.

“When we were standing up the command, we really needed a storage solution that would support a mobile workforce beyond just the installation boundaries,” Collins said. “So, where teams are collaborating, no matter where they are located, they can reach back to those documents. Traditional network storage doesn’t allow for that. But with milDrive, anybody that has a CAC can access it from any web browser. That was monumental in our decision to choose milDrive.”

Additionally, Collins said, the low cost of storage was a deciding factor in the command’s decision to go with milDrive.

“The DISA milDrive was about a third of the cost of traditional storage,” Collins said. “It wasn’t even close.”

The cost of milDrive isn’t the only way the command saves money, he said. There’s also a reduction in workload by information technology support staff — something Collins said is important in Army Futures Command, where they have both limited space and a limited staff.

“For us, we don’t have the luxury of a lot of resources in our IT shop,” he said. “We have to be very diligent in what we assign for tasks. With milDrive, it’s simply provisioning a user to a milDrive account, which is exponentially easier for the staff here to execute based on our current resourcing thresholds.”

To achieve a seamless, transparent use of milDrive, software does have to be installed on a user’s computer. Until that software is installed, users can access files via a web-based application. Collins said initial use of milDrive at Army Futures Command was complicated by that requirement, but those challenges disappeared after the software was approved for use on their network.

“Quite frankly, ever since the application was installed, we’ve received zero complaints,” Collins said.

Landymore said organizations that want to make use of milDrive can check out the services catalogue on the DISA website. In addition, she said, DISA can help organizational IT staffs migrate data on existing storage services to milDrive.

By C. Todd Lopez

ShadowTrack 24-7 & ST-Lock, Official Launch, Booth 20000 (SERT), SHOT Show

Monday, January 20th, 2020

Fletcher, NC – January 18, 2020

SERT, LLC will be supporting the official launch of ShadowTrack 24/7 GPS tracking solutions during the 2020 SHOT Show at their Booth 20000 in the main LE Hall, January 21-24 at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

ShadowTrack 24/7 was founded to bring innovative GPS tracking solutions to a wide-based clientele. Their solutions are customizable and unique to each customer’s need to track valued assets. In addition, the company’s “best-in-class” approach offers solutions that are innovative as well as cost effective and ultimately open untapped market opportunities.

ShadowTrack 24/7 will also be introducing the ST-Lock secured by Nok?, connecting all your locks, sharing data in real time, sending you updates and keeping valuable assets safe. ST-Lock padlocks are key-less, heavy duty locks with an industrial strength body and intelligent core. These powerful locks are tamper resistant , work in harsh environmental conditions and are also available with a shrouded shackle for extra protection.

These new solutions and products, plus many more, will be on display at Booth No 20000 (LE). For more information on ShadowTrack 24/7, please visit or contact Brynne Williams at [email protected] for more information.

Persistent Systems Improves MPU5 Radio – Releases Software Update

Thursday, January 16th, 2020


NEW YORK, NY. – Dec 04, 2019 – Persistent Systems, LLC (“Persistent”) is excited to release Firmware Version 19.5.3 for the MPU5 and Embedded Module. This firmware addresses feedback from a readiness exercise conducted by the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division.

“Thank you to the Rakkasan’s for the in-depth after-action report. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and helps Persistent continue to improve the MPU5 in ways that are most beneficial to the warfighter,” said Eric Stern, Director of Engineering at Persistent.

Firmware Version 19.5.3 contains significant performance improvements specifically intended to benefit dismounted end users.  Improvements include:

• Improved Battery Life: about 3-hours increase in MPU5 runtime on a standard 6.8 Ah battery pack reduces the number of batteries soldiers must carry to support their mission duration. Power consumption improvements also benefit Embedded Module users.

• Improved Audio Quality: new Opus audio codec implementation, delivers crystal clear audio and an 8x reduction in network utilization for voice traffic. Improved audio clarity further reduces the cognitive load on the soldier.

• Rotary Knob implementation: users can now modify Audio Volume or select their Intercom Talk Group via the 8-position knob on the MPU5.

• LED Blackout Mode: users can now disable the status LED to support low-visibility operations.

• Simplified Web Management: Web interface is now streamlined based on the cables currently connected to the radio and displays only relevant settings to the user, improving ease of use and ensuring users are maximizing the capabilities of the MPU5.

• Multicast Firmware Upgrade: firmware upgrades to large MPU5 networks now occur via multicast, enabling a rapid upgrade of a large number of nodes.

• Rapid Configuration Tool: implementation of a tool to help automate the mass configuration of MPU5s. As users continue to create larger networks, rapid configuration becomes even more critical. 

“We want to empower warfighters with industry-leading capabilities, and receiving direct user feedback from operational units is extremely beneficial. Their feedback allows us to focus on improving existing capabilities and developing new ones to address capability gaps that can only be discovered in real-world deployments of the network,” Stern added.

Firmware Version 19.5.3 is immediately available. Existing customers will receive an email notification and can download the firmware from the new Persistent Customer Support Portal. All customers are encouraged to upgrade.

See the Latest from Propel, LLC at the Consumer Electronics Show

Monday, January 6th, 2020

Propel, LLC has been doing some spectacular work in eTextiles and they’ve been invited by the Small Business Administration to exhibit at CES.

See them in booth #50000 at this week’s CES in Las Vegas.

Mobile battlefield Devices Show Great Potential Thanks to Army Research

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

ADELPHI, Md. — Soldiers on the battlefield are not able to rely on high-powered bulky devices or the cloud to conduct operations, so how can they efficiently run the programs and algorithms needed to be successful in their missions?

A collaborative effort between Army researchers has resulted in a tool that will enable the Army to model, characterize and predict the performance of current and future machine learning-based applications on mobile devices, enabling the deployment of advanced analytics to the tactical edge to support Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance operations.

This research is being conducted by Dr. Kevin Chan from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University and IBM, a collaborative effort made possible by the lab’s Network Science Collaborative Technology Alliance that is slated to conclude this year after a 10-year run.

The researchers detail their achievements in papers recently accepted to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Transactions on Mobile Computing titled Augur: Modeling the Resource Requirements of ConvNets on Mobile Devices and to the IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking titled NetVision: On-demand Video Processing in Wireless Networks.

This research studies how convolutional neural networks on mobile devices such as smartphones are being used for various applications like object detection, language translation and audio classification, Chan said.

“Given the rapid advances and development of artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, most of the research in deep learning is studied using devices or platforms that have a lot more resources to include processing, energy and storage, and commercial applications use the cloud for some of these complex computations,” Chan said. “As a result, there’s a great deal of uncertainty in the performance and resource requirements of these algorithms on mobile devices, for instance if they’ll take forever to run or use up all of the battery.”

The researchers profiled several different commonly used deep learning algorithms on numerous different current mobile computing platforms, including smartphones and mobile graphics processing units, and characterized how they performed.

The primary collaborator of this work was Professor Thomas La Porta, director, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Evan Pugh Professor and William E. Leonhard Professor at Pennsylvania State University.

“We characterized the runtime, memory usage and energy usage of these platforms, whereas typical studies are concerned with runtime and performance,” La Porta said. “The edge analytics requires us to study how these algorithms work on mobile devices. Obviously, commercial applications and vendors are interested in having applications work on smartphones, but they can more readily go to the cloud for help.”

With this, the researchers developed a tool called Augur that is able to predict the performance and resource usage of future algorithms on future mobile devices.

“The result of this research can readily be used on future generations of algorithms and mobile devices,” Chan said.

Understanding how these applications/algorithms work on mobile devices such as tablets, head-mounted displays and handhelds will be crucial towards enabling (or for) analytics at the edge, he said.

Further, the research also shows how the analytics can run on mobile devices, and how these operations can leverage other more capable computing platforms deployed near the tactical edge to support the complex analytics.

“Tactical networks have proposed the deployment of such capabilities called microclouds, for example server class machines in the back of humvees,” Chan said. “The work on NetVision employs tactical microcloud capabilities in which mobile edge devices offload (parts of) the analytics workflow to these devices to speed up processing of the data.”

Chan stated the approach finds optimal processing of the data between the mobile and microcloud computing resources as it still has to deal with a limited bandwidth network to transfer the data.

“The Army will want to employ the latest AI&ML capabilities,” Chan said. “As algorithms and the devices running them improve, it will be important to understand what can run and what sort of performance to expect.”

For Chan, having this work published in an IEEE journal is a huge accomplishment.

“ToN and TMC is an indication that the work is high-quality and well-regarded,” Chan said. “In our field, these are considered as the top-tier journals in which we aim for our research to be published. Earlier versions of this work was published at the 25th ACM International Conference on Multimedia and the Conference on Communications and Networks, which are both highly-rated networking computer science conference and an accomplishment on their own.”

This work was specifically performed within the NSCTA under the distributed video analytics task, and NetVision, in particular, was shown at the NSCTA Expo as a research highlight of the Quality of Information — Semantically Adaptive Networks thrust area.

“As a result of the second half of the program, we had a research task on video analytics,” Chan said. “This research, a collaboration with Penn State and IBM was very productive, enabling CCDC ARL to work with academic and industrial partners, both world-class researchers. This highly-collaborative research leveraged diverse technical expertise – even shared equipment!”

Chan stated that this project and all research conducted under the NSCTA is crucial as the Army continues to develop science and technology for the future fight.

Since the Army has identified communications and networks as a critical capability towards current and future operations, stated Chan, researchers must consider how networked systems behave.

“The concept of multi domain operations implies that operational domains are inherently interconnected,” Chan said. “The Army must understand and develop new technology and capabilities to enable a new way of operations. This will require, for example, understanding on how to execute multi domain command and control, and to create situational awareness through exchange of information across and within operational domains. ARL’s research in network science has resulted in advancement in the state-of-the-art of these capabilities to support multi domain operations for a variety of the Army’s functions.”

For La Porta, this collaboration and research established a foundation for great things to come.

“This work was a valuable building block that allowed us as academic partners to build even deeper collaboration with CCDC ARL and develop systems and algorithms that allow for very fast object and action recognition in videos that are stored on mobile cameras,” La Porta said.

Looking to the future, laboratory officials said they will continue to engage the CCDC C5ISR (Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) Center and the U.S. Army Futures and Concepts Center to best understand where this research can be transitioned to get it one step closer to a Soldier’s hands.

By US Army CCDC Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs

Soldiers Test New Integrated Visual Augmentation System

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

FORT BENNING, Ga. — Soldiers at Fort Pickett, Va. are testing a Microsoft-designed prototype goggle, the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), that offers the capabilities they need to regain and maintain overmatch in multi-domain operations on battlefields that are increasingly urban, congested, dark and unpredictable.

The event is called a Soldier touch point, or STP, and it is fast becoming the standard for the new Army Futures Command’s (AFC) rapid acquisitions methodology. STPs allow industry partners to field test system prototypes repeatedly throughout the research and development process to ensure the final product, in this case the multi-functional IVAS goggle, is met with enthusiasm and truly useful when its fielded to the force.

The Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team (SL CFT) and their partners in military and industry are hosting the STP at Fort Pickett, a National Guard post known for relevant training sites, like the urban village used to replicate combat scenarios that have become commonplace in Middle Eastern operations. The object is to make sure the warfighter drives the design and development based on need and utility. The concept is called Soldier Centered Design, and though it’s not a new concept, it is the first time it has been institutionalized, the first time it has been applied systemically to increase speed and efficiency.

In the spring, Soldier and Marines from various line and special forces units tested an early IVAS prototype based on Microsoft’s heads up display which was designed using Microsoft’s HoloLens 2. That first STP was geared toward proving concept and utility.

The STP underway today at Pickett, the second of four STPs in the 24-month development schedule, is a tougher test designed to assess new capabilities at the platoon level and increase demands on the system in more complex training environments. At this point, about half-way through STP 2, Microsoft has gathered feedback from more than 3,200 hours of user experience.

The SL CFT is one of AFC’s eight CFTs tasked with modernizing the Army after the 2018 National Defense Strategy identified an erosion in close combat capabilities relative to pacing threats around the world. The SL CFT focuses on developing weapons for the Close Combat Force — those who close with and destroy the enemy — to make them more successful in battle. Success is defined in terms of survivability, lethality, situational awareness and maneuverability.

Of all the products and programs in the SL CFT portfolio, IVAS is arguably the most intriguing, as it is the result of complex, non-traditional partnerships and unconventional funding methods (contracts with Microsoft funded through Other Transaction Agreements), and it harnesses a variety of next generation technologies unlike anything the American Soldier has employed ever before.

The final product — officials say it will likely be fielded in the fourth quarter of FY21 — will include a variety of features: a color see-through digital display that makes it possible for the user to access information without taking his eye off the battlefield; thermal and low-light sensors that make it possible to see in the dark, literally; rapid target acquisition and aided target identification; augmented reality and artificial intelligence, to name just a few. IVAS is billed as a fight-rehearse-train system, meaning its function on the battlefield is priority, but its augmented reality capabilities, like real-time mapping, will make it useful for training and rehearsing operations anywhere at any time. And though it’s said to “enhance the survivability” of combatants, its target identification technology will save civilian lives, too.

“When terms like ‘situational awareness’ get thrown around time after time, it’s easy to lose sight of what it really means,” said MAJ Brad Winn, the CFT’s lead action officer for IVAS. “In this case, one of the greatest capabilities of IVAS is Aided Target Recognition, a feature that gives users the ability to quickly identify anything or anyone in sight, which means they can tell the difference between a threat and a civilian non-combatant.”

Winn is one of many members of Team IVAS, a diverse group of Soldiers, civilian employees, academics and industry partners who leverage their respective organizations’ expertise to expedite the development and fielding process. Aside from the SL CFT, Team IVAS includes experts from Microsoft, other CFTs, PEO Soldier, ATEC, the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Research Lab and Soldier Center, and a half dozen other members of that complex integrated network of mostly military command-level organizations known as the Futures Force Modernization Enterprise.

Microsoft “deployed” a team from the west coast to live at Fort Pickett for the duration of this STP, more than a month, to gather feedback and make changes to the goggle every day. They’ll repeat the process next summer, when they put the next iteration of IVAS, the all-weather, ruggedized and militarized, form-fitting prototype to the test in company level operations.

STP 4 will follow in 2021.

By Bridgett Siter