Army inspects open architecture

Openwings may ease battlefield command, control and communications as well as connect your refrigerator to the Internet

Openwings, an information architecture being developed for the Army and

expected to revolutionize battlefield command, control and communications,

faces a challenging hurdle Friday when the technology is demonstrated to

the Army's V Corps commander in Europe.

The architecture could also be a leap toward what some call pervasive computing,

in which cars, household appliances and an array of other products become

connected to the Internet.

Motorola Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. are developing Openwings for the

Army and will demonstrate a prototype to Lt. Gen. James Riley Friday as part

of a week-long conference on Army digitization.

"For this demonstration, we took a narrower focus and looked at some initial,

short-term things that can be done to solve some of their problems," said

Motorola's Guy Bieber, lead architect for effort. "We're looking at how

systems can come together with no administration."

One key element of the architecture is that it will allow forces to spontaneously

add new hardware and software without reconfiguring the entire network.

The architecture provides a network of three grids — a sensor grid, a command

and control grid and an engagement grid — tied together via a distributed

information network known as an information grid.

The concept calls for individual elements to automatically join a grid and

start producing information for other elements in the grid. For example,

if an unmanned aerial vehicle sensor flies into a specific mission area,

it would automatically be registered within the sensor grid as a provider

of services, such as infrared sensor data.

Once the architecture — which is designed to support distributed command,

control, communications, computer and intelligence operations — infiltrates

the Army, industry sources hope it will spread across the Defense Department

and, ultimately, dominate the commercial sector as well.

Friday's demonstration is important, according to Army and industry sources,

because — if successful — it will prove the viability of the concept on

the battlefield. The demonstration will include having devices join a network

at random without prior planning or setup.

"This is an important demonstration because it will show how this technology

and approach can help solve some interoperability problems," said David

Usechak, Army product manager for common software in the program executive

office for C3 systems. "[The next step will be] to continue developing the

architecture and approach. Hopefully, the companies involved can get some

support to continue this effort."

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