Data on demand

The Pentagon is collaborating with five countries on the Smart Sensor Web

project, a sweeping effort to weave together the most extensive sensor program

across the Defense Department into one World Wide Web-like battlefield system.

Smart Sensor Web, a sweeping effort led by the Office of the Secretary

of Defense within the Pentagon, involves the individual military services,

the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Special Operations

Command, the Joint Forces Command, various universities and others.

The project is designed to ensure that battlefield sensors of all kinds

form an intelligent web that spans the battlefield, making critical wartime

data available to individual soldiers from one Web site, which could be

accessed via a wearable computer, a personal digital assistant, a laptop

or another available computer.

The Pentagon initiated the project after doing an inventory of the majority

of research being conducted across services and agencies.

DOD officials found that research was often unique to individual commands

or agencies, said Army Lt. Col. Bruce Gwilliam, who manages the proj-ect

within the Defense secretary's office. "But if you looked at them in total,

what you saw was that we had a plethora of sensors out there for a multitude

of reasons that could be brought together and made available without much

effort," he said.

Traditionally, individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are

sent information from higher echelons. But Smart Sensor Web turns tradition

on its head, using information from higher echelons and from tactical sensors

available on command to the lower ranks. The change, officials say, will

enable the military to gather critical intelligence within much smaller

areas — down to one square kilo-meter — and with errors so minor they are

insignificant.

It's a revolution that has been made possible by the development of

very small sensor technology, micro-electronics, low-power consumption and

technology that is easily proliferated because it is so cheap, said Jasper

Lupo, director of sensors and electronics technology in the office of the

deputy undersecretary of Defense for science and technology.

"It's basically throw-away technology that allows us to think about

giving things to the individual at lower echelons of the military, technology

that used to be prohibitively expensive. That's the revolution," Lupo said.

"And when you put the sensors everywhere, every object on the battlefield

becomes a sensor platform to report back to some collection point."

The project includes various programs within the Defense Department,

including the Army's Land Warrior program, DARPA's Small Unit Operations-Situational

Awareness System, physical sensors for tracking the health conditions of

military members, weather sensors at the tactical level and many others.

The Pentagon is funding the numerous efforts to enable officials to pursue

individual goals while also ensuring that they work toward building the

Smart Sensor Web capability.

The three-year project recently entered its second year. In the first

year, officials focused on the science and technology. The second year will

key in on systems integration and the third on transitioning into an advanced

demonstration.

The Pentagon has scheduled 10 Smart Sensor Web experiments, using as

a test bed the Army's Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility, which

is a mock city at Fort Benning, Ga. The Smart Sensor Web project has also

funded improvements to the facility — a training ground for urban warfare — so that experiments can be conducted at a research laboratory level.

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