Each year, C4ISR Journal scans the world of network, sensors and intelligence looking for the new technologies and new efforts changing the way military forces and policymakers do their jobs. We find these candidates in many ways. Some are nominated by the manufacturers, some by their users, still others are in the news. We scrutinize each one — Is it new? Is it available? Is it useful? Is it being used? — and slim down the pool to a list of the best.
Arrayed in five categories — Sensors, Innovations, Network Systems, Organizations and Platforms — this year’s winners run the gamut from “app stores” that could put crucial mission information on an infantry smartphone to a reusable space plane that flies home from orbit. Last month, we revealed the entire Big 25 list; this month, we honor the Top Five.
Awarded to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the Imaging System For Immersive Surveillance. MIT’s multicamera video surveillance system can monitor an area the size of seven football fields and zoom in on people with enough resolution to identify them by their facial features up to 100 meters away in all directions. The system does this by seamlessly combining the views from 48 cameras. A prototype of ISIS has been tested at Terminal A of Boston’s Logan International Airport, where hijackers boarded two of the doomed flights of 9/11.
Awarded to the U.S. Army G-2 intelligence staff, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate of the Communications-Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center, and Thermopylae Science and Technology for Windshear, software that connects a soldier’s hand-held device to biometric data and intelligence products on the Distributed Common Ground System-Army network. Windshear is the brainchild of the late Pedro “Pete” Rustan, former director of NRO’s Mission Support Directorate, who sought to give small units the same ability to reach that civilians have on smartphones. Now Windshear officials are talking with managers of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s TransApps mobility project about how to integrate their effort. Rustan, who died in July, handed the project to his staff, saying, “It’s your responsibility to force change on a system that won’t want it. Your first approach should be the front door, but if your polite knocks go unanswered, go to the back door. ... Whatever you do, don’t give up until you have pulled the community forward.”
Awarded to the National Security Agency for Project Fish Bowl, a pilot effort to create mobile devices that can securely handle top-secret conversations and data. The intelligence community needs to keep pace with mobile communications breakthroughs in the commercial world. Project Fish Bowl is doing that by letting intelligence IT workers test off-the-shelf cellphones programmed with special security features and extra encryption. Participants in the Fish Bowl pilot are allowed to engage in top-secret conversations tunneled through a commercial cellular network. For now, NSA is focusing on voice-over-Internet, but eventually it would like to give users access to data, too. For security, the data would not be stored on the device; users would view in the intelligence community’s private cloud.
Awarded to the Army’s Distributed Common Ground System-Army program and 42Six Solutions for Coral Reef, an intelligence community computer application that lets analysts upload, search and perform analysis on data extracted from cellphones and GPS devices. The app increases the knowledge of analysts and tactical operators at checkpoints or forward operating bases or on intelligence collection missions. A user in the field acquires data extracted from an adversary’s digital communications, cellphone calls or GPS signals and uploads the information into the Coral Reef network for analysis. The technology helps operators identify suspicious individuals so they can access other intelligence associated with them.
Awarded to Boeing and the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office for the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, the service’s “space plane.” The Air Force has kept its X-37B operations largely secret, but what is known is that the vehicle allows the Air Force to test equipment in space for months at a time, then bring it home for inspection. Such capabilities raise the possibility that the U.S. could deploy sensors into orbits tailored to observe regional hot spots, although the government does not acknowledge this mission. The X-37B vehicle landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in June to conclude a mysterious 15-month stay in orbit.