Army scientists win award for research on reducing risk for soldiers



Credit: US Army photo by Jim Nelson

Two researchers from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory (ARL), have been awarded the Publication Award from the International Test and Evaluation Association for their contributions to test and evaluation, or T&E, procedures that will better equip and protect Soldiers in combat.

Dr. Michael Barton and Dr. Venkat Dasari of the lab’s Computational and Information Sciences Directorate were selected for the ITEA Publication Award for 2018, which recognizes the best article of the year in the ITEA Journal.

According to an excerpt from the award citation, “These two authors made significant contributions to test and evaluation in an outstanding article titled ‘Next Generation Intelligent Test Network Environments’ in the March 2018 issue of The ITEA Journal of Test and Evaluation. The authors described how current technologies could be injected into developmental testing before the same technologies appear in tactical systems. The authors foresee mounting pressures on test teams, and they propose satisfaction of test technology requirements by research investments in areas like high performance computing, intelligent instrumentation incorporating advanced processors, and programmable networks.”

As military systems become more complex and everything becomes more connected (the Internet of Battlefield Things) testing these systems produces an overwhelming amount of data.

“Traditional testing conducts a test, removes data collection devices to harvest the data, analyzes it after the fact, makes adjustments for subsequent tests and repeats,” Barton said. “The volume of data from tests today can take days just for the data reduction step, before analysis can even begin.”

According to the researchers, the current T&E environment must adapt to emerging computing network architectures in order to rapidly prototype, test and evaluate the emerging battlespace technologies.

Their paper describes how the test networks can leverage heterogeneous computing strategies and programmable networks to speed up testing in the wake of this big data explosion, and their research offers a way that couples advanced computing and programmable networks to assess some of the data in near-real time, make decisions about test progress and impact subsequent tests without waiting days for data.

“Instead of waiting to harvest data after a test, or trying to backhaul the data over wireless channels during the test where suitable bandwidth simply isn’t available, we advocate using smart sensors, small form factor but powerful processors and intelligent networks to process some of the data in place and move the reduced data to the test officers for quick look evaluation,” Dasari said. “All of the data is then stored for further after-the-fact analysis and forensics.”

The researchers noted that the unified control plane offered by programmable networks can provide a global view of network topology for rapid evaluation of mission applications being tested, not currently possible using classical network architectures.

For the Army, Barton and Dasari said that implementing this approach for testing will allow data to be analyzed while a test is in progress, reducing the risk of capturing corrupted or unusable data and having to repeat a test.

It will also allow more data to be analyzed sooner, enabling testing to proceed faster and results to be made available to stakeholders sooner.

They noted that in other words, this method leads to more rapid evaluation of mission effectiveness of applications and time-critical adjustments to the scenarios to produce optimal use of test resources, contributing to a reduced acquisition timeline.

“For the Soldier, it means more completely assessing materiel before deploying it, reducing risk to the Soldier and ensuring that systems perform as expected, when needed, where employed, every time,” Dasari said.

In addition, the researchers said the same technology can in principle be implemented tactically to ultimately improve Soldier situational awareness and decision making by making more information available sooner and with greater fidelity.

In terms of the future of this research, Barton and Dasari will continue to collaborate with the T&E community to more completely understand their requirements and to provide guidance for setting up programmable test networks and utilizing heterogeneous computing architectures for effective data reduction and analysis.

“We are pleased that the T&E community recognizes our proposed use of smart, heterogeneous computing resources and a programmable network architecture for building next generation test networks,” Barton said. “I have been a test technology developer and author since 1981, and it is very satisfying to be recognized by this technical community.”

The award will be presented to the authors at the ITEA Annual Conference in November 2019.


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