Army Takes on Wicked Problems With the Internet of Battlefield Things

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June 18, 2018 | Originally published by Date Line: June 18 on

The Army’s work on the Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT) is more than just a way to carve out a catchy name for the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, wearable devices, cameras and embedded devices that take the field with military forces. It also underscores the most important element of having those connected devices–the data collection and automated analytics capabilities required to make good use of the information they provide.

The explosion of things connected to the Internet in everyday life and the industrial sectors has naturally led to subsets within the IoT. There are internets of Aircraft Things, Space Things, Underwater Things, and Medical Things. But like projects in other areas, the Army Research Laboratory’s $25 million IoBT project, is focused mostly on back-end processing. Being led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the project is a collaborative research alliance (CRA) looking to go beyond machines following orders to where they work almost as partners with soldiers in the field.

“We don’t want to micromanage the machines and things doing the work,” Tarek Abdelzaher, who’s leading the work at the University of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune. “I want to tell [the machines] my intent, and then I want them to have the sort of intelligence, autonomy, and initiative to figure out how to meet my intent.”

That involves incorporating predictive intelligence, making use of recent advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and neural networks into the process. Walid Saad, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech who is co-managing an Army grant awarded to the school to study the placement of objects in the IoBT, noted that the project “will marry notions from data analytics, information theory, game theory, and distributed learning.”

For more information on US Army IoBT efforts, see:

ARL Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT)
ARL Battlefield Internet Technologies, Interconnected Robots Focus of New Army Programs