Booz Allen Hamilton

Mesh Technology Sets New Performance Standard for Wireless Communications

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Photo left to right: Todd Hayward, Senior Principal Engineer; Kevin Cybert, Chief Engineer; Susan Lewis, Senior Consultant; Dan Caughran, Staff Engineer; and Jim Potter, Chief Engineer, developed the mesh technology used to collect and transmit data on military vehicles.

For more than a decade, US Army Logistics relied on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking technology to collect location data on vehicles, containers, and other assets. But this technology presented critical limitations in global scalability, wireless coverage range, battery power, performance data collection, and network security. The US Army Logistics Innovation Agency needed a new paradigm that could deliver near-real-time global tracking, in-transit asset visibility, and the ability to extend tracking below the distribution platform level and into the business process.

To support this mission, a Booz Allen team evaluated wireless mesh network solutions available in the marketplace and determined that only a custom wireless mesh network protocol could satisfy the unique challenges of military logistics. The team developed the protocol based on a current industry standard and built in significant advances in power reduction, security, and scalability. It then developed and demonstrated multiple applications and devices and tested them in real-world operational environments.

Today, US Army Logistics is achieving greater efficiency through the Next Generation Wireless Communications (NGWC) mesh network. This significant breakthrough in low-power mesh networking greatly improves the richness and timeliness of data used to locate and maintain assets. This cost-effective solution increases tracking range by enabling devices not in range of a transponder to communicate by relaying messages through other mesh devices. The mesh technology can also transport data collected from remote sensor applications, so logistics personnel can monitor transporting vehicle status and read diagnostics such as mileage, engine hours, fault codes, fuel level, and position. Other sensor applications include physical security (intrusion), bridge stress, power distribution/generation, and personnel monitoring. A key benefit is the security of the mesh and the low probability of interception, because data is encrypted in transport and at rest, and radio transmissions are spread across the spectrum and hop among channels.

The NGWC mesh technology is transforming multiple aspects of the logistics environment and paving the way for ubiquitous applications across many aspects of life. Mesh technology promises to make many applications currently performed by human operators less costly and more accurate.