DARPA is conducting a program codenamed CBMEM (Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking) for sharing of reconnaissance data over local wireless and radio networks of military troops without having to be tethered to a server. The program is already at an advanced stage and the first tests have given encouraging results, recently the agency has executed successfully some tests on the field designed for data sharing on troops on the ground.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) conducted various researches on the possibility to exploit the peer-to-peer (P2P) networks due their robustness.
A peer-to-peer (P2P) network is decentralized and distributed network architecture in which each node (“peers”) acts as both consumer and supplier of resources. In peer-to-peer (P2P) networks every task is shared amongst multiple interconnected peers who each make a portion of their resources directly available to other network participants, the principal advantage is that peers do it without the control of a centralized entity.
“DARPA’s Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking (CBMEN) program aims to provide an alternative approach to the top down focus of most military networks, which provide content over a common operating environment from the strategic to tactical level. ” states the official page for the program.
The concept behind CBMEN is revolutionary for the military, the content sharing is approached at the individual Soldier or Marine level, this means that despite for hostile context where communication infrastructure is not available the individuals can still generate, elaborate and share critical content on their own. This possibility is considered strategic and represent a meaningful improvement for troops’ mission.
CBMEN technology has another great advantage, the availability of an impressive computing power of used mobile devices, a squad of nine troops could have more than half a terabyte (500 GB) of cloud storage.
The CBMEN software broadcasts content to neighboring devices on the network over cellular, Wi-Fi or radio networks, it is able to maintain synchronization with other CBMEN-equipped devices for network organizations in this way every node of cloud could access to shared content without having to take any action.
DARPA’s experts are working to combine mobile ad-hoc networking with a peer-to-peer technology to make available any kind of content across all devices on field. The data in this way will not pass through the Department of Defense’s existing intelligence-sharing network.
“CBMEN may not sound revolutionary, because people take server access for granted when cell towers, fiber-optic connections and 4G/LTE networks are so widely available worldwide,” “But when that infrastructure is not available, CBMEN technology enables real-time information sharing where it hasn’t been possible before. CBMEN puts secure, private collaboration and cloud storage in your pocket.” said Keith Gremban, DARPA program manager.
According military sources the CBMEM technology could be soon adopted for troops in Afghanistan or engaged in other missions, including humanitarian operations. A typical use is in response to natural disasters in which communications infrastructure is down.
The first phase of field-tested CBMEN was successfully concluded at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., the CBMEN software was loaded on Android smartphones and WiFi connectivity, as well as on Army Rifleman Radios based on the Joint Tactical Radio System standard.
Rifleman Radios wearable radios that supports simultaneous voice and data transmission. Following the description of tests in field provided by DARPA post:
“The field tests proved the concept works and highlighted the potential benefits of real-time information sharing. At one point in the testing, two squads on foot patrol came within communication range of each other. One squad had information about a simulated person of interest that the other squad was seeking. The CBMEN software, working in the background on the troops’ mobile devices, automatically transferred the information from the first squad to the other, without the second squad having to ask for it. As the second squad entered a building where the person of interest was, the squad used that information to immediately identify and apprehend its target.
The testing also identified areas that need further development such as enhancing security and improving efficiency of information exchange, which will be the focus of the next phase of the program. The goal is to reduce the number of transmissions required, which would save power, and to also reduce the bandwidth needed.”
DARPA has started the phase 2 for the CBMEN test program, to prove “improved war-fighting mission support in a complex joint-content sharing environment” allowing different Armies to share data across multiple types of networks adopting both commercial smartphones and military equipments.