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The Smarter Way to Integrate Military Technology - UltraLYNX

Soldier Modernisation talks to Steve O'Reilly about the advantages of a Smart Hub

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Q: What are some of the main challenges faced in integrating military equipment?

A: Integration of military equipment poses several challenges, each requiring innovative solutions to ensure seamless operation and interoperability on the battlefield. One significant hurdle is the presence of legacy kit, comprising older equipment and systems that may not be compatible with newer technology. Integrating these legacy systems with modern devices can be a complex and time-consuming process, often requiring extensive customization and troubleshooting.

Additionally, the integration of new devices with older ones presents its own set of challenges. With rapid advancements in technology, newer devices may utilize different data formats, connector designs and communication protocols than their predecessors. Bridging the gap between these disparate systems while maintaining compatibility and functionality is essential for ensuring mission success.

Moreover, the looming threat of obsolescence in End User Devices (EUDs) adds another layer of complexity to integration efforts. As technology evolves, older EUDs may become obsolete, rendering them incompatible with newer equipment and software. Managing this obsolescence and ensuring seamless transition to newer EUDs is critical for maintaining operational readiness and effectiveness.

Finally, the integration process must also address the need to reduce operator cognitive burden. With an increasing array of devices and systems to manage, operators face the challenge of processing and interpreting vast amounts of data in real-time. Simplifying the integration process and streamlining operations can help alleviate this burden, allowing operators to focus on mission-critical tasks without being overwhelmed by technical complexities.

Q: How do Miniature Rugged Soldier Worn Hubs address these integration challenges?

A: Miniature Rugged Soldier Worn Hubs offer a comprehensive solution to the myriad challenges faced in integrating military equipment. At the core of these hubs lies a scalable and flexible open architecture, designed to simplify the integration process and enhance interoperability. This architecture allows for the seamless connection of disparate devices, regardless of their original design or intended use.

Furthermore, these hubs feature embedded edge computing capability, enabling rapid data processing at the source. This capability is crucial for making split-second decisions on the battlefield, where timing can be critical to mission success. Moreover, these hubs are designed to be independent of EUDs, decoupling system operation and configuration from the connected devices. This independence ensures mitigation of risk from the cost/logistics associated with needing to produce and accredit a new custom Android ROM. Additionally, the built-in web-based user interface allows for centralized monitoring and control of power distribution to connected devices, and configuration of hub functionality, further enhancing reliability and performance.

Q: How do Miniature Rugged Soldier Worn Hubs empower interoperability?

A: The software-defined capability of these hubs plays a key role in empowering interoperability by enabling a wide range of functionalities directly on the hub. By offloading tasks such as USB driver management, network routing, middleware deployment and container hosting, these hubs ensure seamless communication between connected devices, regardless of their original design or intended use.

Furthermore, the open architecture of these hubs allows for the deployment of third-party apps in containers, providing additional flexibility and functionality. This allows developers to create custom solutions tailored to specific mission requirements, further enhancing interoperability and expanding the capabilities of the system.

Overall, Miniature Rugged Soldier Worn Hubs such as UltraLYNX offer a comprehensive solution to the integration challenges faced in military operations. With their scalable architecture, embedded edge computing capability, software-defined functionality and independence from EUDs, these hubs are poised to revolutionize military technology integration and enhance mission effectiveness on the battlefield.

Smart Hub Use Cases Network Bridging & Routing

One of the technically simplest uses of a wearable smart hub with embedded computing capability is to bridge IP traffic between two or more dissimilar MANET radio networks at layer 2 to increase range, improve diversity, or interoperate with partners. As the bridging and configuration is carried out entirely by software running on the hub embedded processor, no EUD or additional software is required.

Figure 1 - Bridging MANET networks at the edge

Figure 1 - Bridging MANET networks at the edge

This setup is effective at allowing multicast traffic to propagate between different network segments, however connectivity problems can arise with unicast traffic where different IP addressing schemes are in use on each network. Further, as all IP traffic will be bridged between these networks, controlling what traffic goes where can become unmanageable; undesirable behaviour will likely occur if high bandwidth ISR streams are present on the network. Problems can also arise if the networks are bridged in multiple locations due to the creation of loops; this consumes bandwidth and can potentially overload the network. Similarly, if one of the bridged bearers cannot provide sufficient bandwidth, that network runs the risk of becoming overloaded when trying to forward all the traffic originating in the other network(s).

Therefore, a more advanced, configurable and flexible solution is required. Building on the bridged configuration outlined previously, the UltraLYNX hub can instead be configured to operate as an edge router to allow the IP traffic that flows between the different networks to be segregated and managed more effectively.

Figure 2 - Networking an ISR sensor, MANET radio and BLOS radio

Figure 2 - Networking an ISR sensor, MANET radio and BLOS radio

As the hub software can recognise and distinguish between each different data bearer that is connected, a set of preconfigured settings can be applied to each interface on the fly without the need for any operator input or action.

The IP address of the hub on each network can be assigned statically or dynamically (if an external DHCP server is available) and the hub can serve IP addresses to clients via DHCP if required. By default, the networks attached to the hub are segregated; the UltraLYNX hub web-based admin panel allows the following networking options to be configured:

Control of multicast routing; for instance, it may be desirable to prevent multicast traffic propagating into a particular network.

  • Enabling NAT between different networks to allow bidirectional unicast communication between users in different MANET networks.
  • Defining static routes to other routers that are present in the network topology.
  • Adding arbitrary firewall rules between different networks to allow or deny specific IP addresses or traffic types being routed between networks.

Owing to the software-defined nature of the UltraLYNX hub, additional networking capabilities including the mitigation of traffic loops (i.e. coordination between hubs), VLAN creation, traffic shaping, and QoS could be realized at the edge to support complex network topologies where multiple data bearers and routes are present.

Hosting of Third-Party Software

The core software of the UltraLYNX hub provides a configurable platform that enables many use cases and system configurations to be achieved. Due to the open architecture approach employed, it is possible for third party software applications to be securely deployed onto the unit within containers to provide extended functionality.

Figure 3 - Hosting third party software on the UltraLYNX smart hub

Figure 3 - Hosting third party software on the UltraLYNX smart hub

Further, any connected device or network interface can be configured to be accessible from within a given container and the APIs that are provided by the core Ultra functionality can be leveraged by applications running within the container. The provided virtual networking infrastructure also enables containers to communicate with each other if required.

An example of functionality that could be loaded onto the UltraLYNX hub as a container is a lightweight TAK Server; this container would be networked to one or more of the data bearers attached to the hub and could enable multiple federated TAK Server instances to be deployed at the edge. An additional container could be added alongside to perform tactical data link translation (for example CoT to VMF) between different networks.

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