Virginia Tech studies battlefield wireless

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University won a $246,000 Defense Department grant to create a test bed platform that will probe ways to integrate various battlefield wireless networks, research that could also help overcome interoperability problems that plague emergency workers and first responders.

The Defense University Research Instrumentation Program grant is the only one awarded this year for research on wireless networks.

DOD wants to develop a network-centric communications infrastructure, said Thomas Hou, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Virginia Tech and principal investigator on the project, but certain kinds of wireless networks can't yet talk to each other.

Mobile ad hoc networks are ideal for keeping military groups on the move connected to one another, while stationary wireless-sensor networks relay valuable observational data from areas that are hostile to humans. Having the two kinds of networks interoperate would have obvious advantages.

But they have developed along separate tracks and have fundamental differences in architecture and characteristics.

In addition to studying how these networks can be integrated, Hou said, the test bed will also examine other issues such as wireless networking with smart antennas, video communication over ad hoc networks and energy efficiency and network lifetime.

The results of these studies should also be applicable to network applications used for homeland security, law enforcement and anti-terrorism, he said.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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