Army’s “Edgy” Concept: Customizable, Mobile Solutions for the Warfighter

An Edge-Enabled System is one that is utilized at the "edges" of the network.  Typically, the users are dismounted Warfighters that use thin client (aka web only) solutions and those that use hand-held devices. (Photo: US Army)

An Edge-Enabled System is one that is utilized at the "edges" of the network. Typically, the users are dismounted Warfighters that use thin client (aka web only) solutions and those that use hand-held devices. (Photo: US Army)

Michael Anthony is the Chief of the Advanced Applications Branch and Collaborative Battlespace Reasoning and Awareness (COBRA) Army Technology Objective (ATO) Manager for the US Army Research Development and Engineering Command, CERDEC, Command and Control Directorate (C2D). Ron Szymanski is a Lead Computer Scientist for CERDEC C2D and the Technical Lead for the COBRA ATO.  Both are located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD.

There has been a recent push for the Army to leverage commercial hardware, software, and graphical user interface technologies for handheld military specific use. As part of our goal to advance the Army’s agenda, the Battle Command division of the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is leveraging an “Edge-Enabled Systems” paradigm. I know; that’s a mouth full. But over the next two days, we’ll explain what we mean by Edge-Enabled Systems, we’ll provide some real-world examples, and we’ll end with a brief discussion on the potential return-on-taxpayer-investment.

First, what the heck are we talking about? An Edge-Enabled System is one that is utilized at the “edges” of the network. Typically, the users are dismounted Warfighters or other users that do not have access to a thick client terminal. We tend to classify those users in two categories: those that use thin client (aka web only) solutions and those that use hand-held devices (tablets, mobile phones). Those users are at the “tip of the spear” and not only are collecting and transmitting relevant information on a daily basis, but also have a critical need for the most up-to-date information on their mission area.

Additionally, an Edge-Enabled System “lives in the cloud.”  That is to say, application data is not tied to any one device/platform. No matter where one logs in to their Facebook account, they can still access all of their pictures, their friends’ contact information and posts. Facebook doesn’t “care” where you log in from; all your data is available no matter where you are.

Finally, an Edge system usually offers some type of composability. The system is customizable, offers a wide variety of configuration settings, applications, or themes to ensure that each user can have an experience that is unique to their needs. Users might even be able to build and share their own apps to the community-at-large.

So how does this work and how do we intend to leverage it? We’ll discuss that and share some real-world examples in the next couple of posts. But for those who just can’t wait, feel free to listen to the DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable discussion we had last week at the C4ISR Symposium in Baltimore.

In the meantime, we’re interested in your thoughts on this model, so please share comments or leave questions.  If you want more information about CERDEC C2D, contact our Public Affairs office, (732) 427-1594 – and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, too!

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  • http://twitter.com/mentelligence Tom Cox

    I'm wondering how CERDEC proposes to bridge the gap between iPhone app developers and DoD users. Will they buy their apps through iTunes? Has the DoD set up an Enterprise through which they can disseminate apps to the entire DoD marketplace?

  • http://www.cerdec.army.mil/ Edric

    Let's be clear up front, CERDEC does not endorse any one vendor's solution over another. There are various mechanisms (COTS, GOTS, and open source) to distribute apps for Apple devices, Android Devices, Windows 7 Mobile Devices, etc. The DoD and Army are researching their own “marketplace” for sharing approved applications for Warfighter and DoD personnel use. All that being said, some of the winning solutions from the Army CIO/G6 Apps for the Army (A4A) contest, like the Army Physical Readiness Training app(http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/army-physical-re…30023?mt=8#) are already on iTunes. This doesn't mean that iTunes is the long term solution, but we are definitely exploring the use of it.Thank you for your comment and are always looking for novel ideas you, or the community at large may have, in this arena.Edric @ CERDEC

  • http://au.linkedin.com/in/johnanthonypattison john anthony pattison

    i feel it will be best to store all dod apps and programs – and obviously data – in the cloud…. so when someone from dod buys an iphone or ipad or notebook laptop computer or even a google android device it will have all the relevant apps accessable via the intranet… this is, good because if a device gets lost or stolen then there is no big deal as the device owner just contacts the i.t. department who immediately remove the mac number of the device from the intranet… that is, so that if it was stolen the thief gets either nothing or very little as no data or customized software is stored on the device…

    having the customised software stored in the cloud is a good idea as this software can very easily be upgraded for everyone… new software can also be easily added… having all customised software in the cloud for the entire u.s. government – including dod is a good ideas as it is such a huge organization… there is different customised software for each department but there is probably also some software which is the same for all departments… word processors are common…

    so all software could be stored in the cloud… distributing discs to upgrade software across the entire u.s. government would be costly and time consuming… imagine the number of man hours required to upgrade everyones system to new software… oh and of the potential cyber threats if a small percentage do it wrong… oh and did i say upgrading software is a real hassle and which wastes workers time… so with all software other than the operating system and internet browser stored in the cloud employees could have the latest software all the time… software updating used to be incremental and only occur when it had to…

    cloud computing makes it easly for the entire network to upgrade to the latest addition of the software or to get new programs… that is, across the board to everyone who needs it… at it is all done by the i.t. department so this is an important burden of regular workers shoulders…

    i am not keen on the ipad as it doesn't have an internet camera… with iphones and notebook computers and probably most androids they have internet cameras… so throughout the day the device could periodically or randomly require the photo of the device user… access to certain classified files could also require the photo to be take of the device user for photo verification at the mainframe… with notebook laptop computers the system would just take the photo and send it to a mainframe for verification… if it was an iphone or anther phone the device user could be instructed to point the device so that he/she can be photgraphed… mobile phones are not used all the time… the photo would only be required when the phone was being used… maybe even a photo of the hair just above his/her ear could be used as a preliminary varification if he/she was on the phone… when on the phone a specific chim could instruct the device user to point the phones internet camera at his/her face… voice regnition is also good as a verification test as a persons voice is reasonably unique…

    john