A secure, private internet and cloud at the tactical edge

August 26, 2013

Soldier enters data while on patrol (credit: DARPA)

DARPA has developed a “private Internet” system that allows soldiers or marines on patrol to quickly share current intelligence information and imagery on their mobile devices, instead of waiting until they are back at camp to access a central server.

Called Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking (CBMEN), the program provides an alternative approach to the top-down focus of most military networks.

Tactical cloud

The program aims to make each squad member’s mobile device function as a server, so content is generated, distributed and maintained at the tactical edge where it’s needed.

As long as troops are within communication range — whether by radio, cellular, Wi-Fi or other radio frequency devices — CBMEN software automatically replicates and shares updates, causing the tactical cloud to grow and diminish as users move in and out of range of each other.

A key factor that enables CBMEN is the tremendous computing power available in current mobile devices. “There’s more computing power and memory in my smartphone than the supercomputer I used in college,” said Keith Gremban, DARPA program manager. “With 64 gigabytes of storage in a single smartphone, a squad of nine troops could have more than half a terabyte (500 GB) of cloud storage. CBMEN taps into that huge capacity.”

The system was tested with CBMEN software loaded on Android-based smartphones and Army Rifleman Radios.

Civilian use

CBMEN technology may also be useful for civilian applications, especially disaster response, where the established communication infrastructure is unavailable or destroyed.

Firefighters, police, medical personnel, National Guard members and others responding to a major disaster could quickly share imagery and vital information.