By Dr A.T. Kalghatgi, Former Director (R&D), Bharat Electronics Ltd
Track chair, Defence, IoT India Congress 2019.
Worldwide spending on Internet of Things (IoT) is projected to reach $1.2 Trillion Dollars by 2022 as the world moves closer to Industry 4.0. Closely intertwined with other disruptive technologies like AI and blockchain IoT has already started showing how it can improve efficiency and effectiveness thereby giving a competitive advantage to the companies who adopt these technologies. There are many possibilities where IoT can become a force multiplier in the complex battle space like surveillance and logistics.
With several initiatives taken by Ministry of Defence (MoD) for promoting induction of new technology and innovative solutions in the Indian Defence Forces, this is the right time for Indian manufacturing and defence industry to take note of the advances being made in the field of IoT to deliver innovative solutions to the Indian Defence Forces.
IoT can transform the industry in almost every facet, from logistics to production to distribution. Similarly, IoT can revolutionise the defence forces. Defence Forces in India already harness a lot of IT infrastructure and applications. Strategic, tactical, operational and logistic applications are already using a lot of IT enabled solutions. Netcentric Warfare, situational awareness, sensor networks are already utilizing technologies similar to IoT. Adoption of Machine Learning & AI which are overlays on IoT framework are already being attempted. However they are distinctly different in form and architecture than their civilian counterparts
The technology could also help improve the quality of defence production, especially those of critical ammunition thereby substantially reducing the risk of ammunition accidents. Ammunitions, along with the environmental condition around it can be tracked, using a blockchain based IoT devices, throughout its journey from factory to depots to units to ranges till the time they are fired thereby improving the confidence of the firer on the ammunition.
Another area which will benefit tremendously is in improving the mission reliability of the equipment and weapon system being used by the Indian Defence Forces. An IoT / AI based system can predict the impending defects in the system and can prescribe the correct action to prevent the failure of the system.
Surveillance system grid augmented with IoT sensors can enhance the intelligence gathering capability and improve situational awareness during the conduct of operations.
There are many such areas where defence forces can benefit from IoT. Concept of Internet of Military Things (IoMT) and Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT) are being envisioned today – IoT adapted to the peculiarities and challenges of a Battlefield.
With an aim to create an ecosystem which fosters innovation MoD has established the Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO), Defence Innovation Fund (DIF) and Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX). In addition to these DRDO has also established the Technology Development Fund. Army Design Bureau has published four volumes of Compendium of Problem Statements which has many a problem which can be solved by IoT. These are opportunities for innovators in industry and academia to collaborate with defence forces and find innovative solutions.
Challenges and Possible Solution
IoT is an evolving technology and many issues need to be addressed before IoT can be successfully deployed in a battlefield and being called IoBT.
Most critical among them is security and secrecy. Security of IoT devices and their information has long been a concern in the commercial IoT world as well, it becomes more important in the military domain and it needs to be addressed before being deployed.
Another issue will the requirement of additional bandwidth of the communication network required to carry the data being generated by many IoT devices.
IoT or IoBT can be a force multiplier for the Indian Defence Forces once all the challenges have been overcome. IoT along with blockchain and AI has the potential to shorten the OODA Cycle of the Indian Defence Forces providing them with an edge over the enemy in case of a military conflict. The approach to achieve this can happen with collaboration between various stakeholders from industry, academia, defence forces, defence production PSUs etc and they all need to first come together, discuss and debate the opportunities, threats and possibilities IoT has to offer.
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- Army raises alarm over rising accidents due to faulty ammunition, Times of India, 14 May 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/army-raises-alarm-over-rising-accidents-due-to-faulty-ammunition/articleshow/69315854.cms, accessed on 17 May 2019.
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- Technology Development Fund by DRDO, https://tdf.drdo.gov.in/Contact_us, accessed on 17 May 2019.