Internet of Everything could transform the battlefield

The Internet of Everything, or IoE, is serving as a catalyst to change the landscape of the IT industry while transforming how users leverage network-based solutions. For defense, IoE holds the power to connect the battlefield with the digital world in ways that promise to fundamentally change military operations.

The Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to machine-to-machine communications, is a crucial component of IoE and continues to grow as devices proliferate. Cisco estimates that 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, and those connections will communicate data to analyze, plan, manage and make intelligent decisions autonomously, helping to protect soldiers and make our intelligence more actionable.

IoE promises to take IoT to the next level by combining people, processes and technology with connected devices, sensors and other machines. This integration of IoT with human communications, collaboration and analytical elements enables real-time decision advantages.

The opportunity with IoE comes from its ability to link components via an intelligent, programmable network. IoT is a critical part of this evolution, in which physical objects like vehicles, weapons and unmanned vehicles are connected to secure networks to create information dominance.

DOD’s vision of net-centric warfare included four key elements: networked forces with improved information sharing; information sharing and collaboration that enhance quality and situational awareness; shared situational awareness that enables self-synchronization; and the combination of the other three elements to increase mission effectiveness. This vision, which was far-reaching in the 1990s, is now a reality.

Today’s military is adapting to asymmetrical warfare and an evolving real-time threat matrix that require new approaches to military operations. In the midst of a technological shift from the fixed-location work models of the PC era to the mobile, social, virtual and collaborative models of today, information advantage has become more important than overwhelming force. To address those needs, our military is taking a leap forward by adopting new technologies and incorporating them into existing environments – all without sacrificing security and the ability to manage complex systems.

The integration of military technology also allows unification of computing, storage and networks with sensors, devices and collaborative applications. An integrated architecture for IoE creates interconnected physical and virtual environments that combine IoT devices with secure virtualization, mobility, unified communications and other advanced technologies.

The proliferation of unstructured imagery and video data from a variety of sensors is creating new capture, storage, computing and exploitation opportunities. To accommodate an influx of new devices without sacrificing security, they must be managed as part of an integrated architecture for IoE. The framework should leverage commercial products to avoid unnecessary government-modified devices that are more expensive to field, manage and support. Security measures will be critical for protecting data on classified networks.

Connected IoT devices like UAS sensors will keep soldiers and commanders connected to data needed to respond to the ever-changing battlefield. When combined with collaboration and analytics, IoT data becomes part of a broader IoE environment that promises to create a real-time information advantage.

While increasing connections on the battlefield offers benefits, there will also be rising security concerns about unauthorized monitoring or even seizure of vital networks critical to military operations. As the multitude of connected sensors and devices grows while at the same time video surveillance and applications leverage the Internet, the importance of physical and network security becomes even more critical.

Security concerns surrounding IoE will be particularly important for military operators connecting to classified networks. Hence, network-aware intelligence and end-to-end physical security for video and all networked sensors must be at the heart of any military IoE solution.


Today's missions require ongoing, untethered interactions between soldiers, decision makers, subject matter experts and machines. Unification of sensors, video, voice, data collaboration and secure mobile computing is delivering next-generation battlefield capabilities. The potential exists to combine IoE technologies with big data analytics, trusted multilevel security capabilities, software-defined networks and virtualization-aware network infrastructure to deliver an integrated architecture for the battlefield.

Architecture suited to support IoE will include compute, storage and virtualization assets in the data center. It will also include secure network fabric for connectivity, voice and video-enabled secure mobile infrastructure and battlefield sensors. Virtualization combined with advanced security from the network to application levels are essential to allowing highly secure access to sensitive and classified information on multiple networks while lowering the risk of vulnerabilities. When properly designed and deployed, IoE will help to realize the vision of net-centric warfare while providing technology advantage for our connected warfighters.

About the Author

Larry Payne is a vice president at Cisco Federal.

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