A radio frequency signal emitted by a soldier’s handheld software programmable radio, a GPS signal traveling from space, a point-to-point UHF data link, optical transmissions, or wireless Internet connectivity can all provide sensitive targeting detail to the time from different positions on the transport layer technological transmission modes.
What if a unit facing enemy fire in mechanized combat simultaneously receives critical data from each of these disparate modes of transmission? What if each source includes elements of an overall picture of the combat scenario that battlefield commanders and decision makers need? What if an older antenna, radar system, or computer can’t handle data traveling on a different frequency or data format? This problem has challenged weapons developers for decades, however, the Pentagon is now making unprecedented breakthroughs using a common Internet protocol and technical standards to gather, translate, pool, organize, analyze and transmit disparate sources of data from combat-critical sensors, fire control systems, weapons, and large platforms.
One such effort is the Army’s Project Rainmaker. Project Rainmaker is preparing for near-term multi-domain interoperability through the use of high-tech computing “gateways” and is working on new technologies to support modernization breakthroughs for decades. How will information have to travel between non-existent future platforms and transport layer technologies? How will it continue to achieve breakthrough speeds, distances and transmission capabilities? The developers of Project Rainmaker are currently developing what scientists call “data fusion”.
“The whole intent of Rainmaker was built on the idea of sharing information at the lowest level, to help grow this machine learning infrastructure as we move forward. So it can adapt as new things come in, instead of being more tightly constrained,” said Alan Hansen, Deputy Assistant Director for Information Dominance, US Army DEVCOM C5ISR, Army Futures Command. national interest in an interview.
Data fusion, Hansen explained, is intended to help create a collective picture and enable previously inaccessible methods of data analysis and transmission.
“Using data fusion, you take different data and correlate it, you combine the information into a single observation. Depending on the type of data, you can get better observation based on different types of sensors for a different look at a different angle,” he added. “With a Data Fabric, I break it down into small pieces. And maybe I’ll create a new decision-making methodology that we’ve never used before.
Hansen explained it in terms of an “interpretive” data layer that can combine and interconnect data from different incoming sensors traveling through different transport layers. It can also be customizable, Hansen said, meaning it can be tailored to fit specific information-sharing needs and standards.
“Having a Data Fabric gives you the ability to kind of reinvent the way you want to exchange information. What kind of information do I share and to whom, right? So these Data Fabrics give you that agility,” he explained.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the national interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.