Mini-Sensors for “Military Omniscience”

Network technology is being applied in lots of interesting ways.

Take this application, for example, detailed in

clens_hand_only.jpgSpotting insurgents, sorting out friend from foe – it’s beyond tough in today’s guerilla war zones. So tough, that no single monitor can be counted on to handle the job. The Pentagon’s answer: build a set of palm-sized, networked sensors that can be scattered around, and work together to “detect, classify, localize, and track dismounted combatants under foliage and in urban environments.” It’s part of a larger Defense Department effort to establish “military omniscience” and “ubiquitous monitoring.”

clens_diagram.jpgThe military has been working on gadgets for a while, now, that can be left behind in a bad neighborhood or a jihadist training site, and monitor the situation. These Camouflaged Long Endurance Nano-Sensors (CLENS) would be an order of magnitude smaller than previous surveillance gear of its type — just 60 milimeters long, and 150 grams.

Darpa, the Pentagon’s far-out research arm, also wants the monitors to take up a 10,000th of the power of previous sensors. That would give the CLENS enough juice to keep watch over an area for up to 180 days.

The way they’d keep watch would be different, too. Not as a individual sensors, but as a network of monitors, communicating with ultra wideband radios. The same frequencies could be used as a kind of radar, to track objects and people within the sensor net.

“The best way to learn about an adversary – what he’s done, what he’s doing, and what he’s likely to do - is through continual observation using as many observation mechanisms as possible. We call this persistent surveillance,” Dr. Ted Bially, head of Darpa’s Information Exploitation Office, told a conference last year. “We’ve learned that occasional or periodic snapshots don’t tell us enough of what we need to know. In order to really understand what’s going on we have to observe our adversaries and their environment 24 hours a day, seven days a week, week-in and week-out.”

According to its recently-released budget, Darpa hopes to hand over its new, minature, persistent sensors to Special Operations Command by the end of fiscal year 2007.

Gives a whole new meaning to the word “troubleshooting,” no?

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