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In this four-part series, Booz Allen examines the rise and impact of the application of edge computing solutions in the military. In the final chapter, we look at common obstacles and the latest thinking for overcoming them.
Edge computing technologies are accelerating the industry movement to a new processing model—one that pushes the boundaries of computing technology far beyond the traditional information technology (IT) enterprise. It is transforming today’s mission by putting the right information in the right hands, at the right time.
From warfighters to first responders and border patrol troops—edge solutions improve performance and minimize risk to those who are putting themselves on the line. Individuals and teams can now make safe, smart decisions without having to wait for information from the central command.
As we’ve demonstrated previously, successful edge solutions are already being used in the military. And not just in the private sector. In fact, edge technology has already been used in the Air Force’s F-35, Army’s Digital Soldier, and other budding naval applications.
These working examples excel at limiting information overload, shortening the decision loop, and broadening the very definition of situational awareness. We know that edge computing technology is within reach through the use of sensor processing units, modular hardware, and mesh networks—brought together for a game-changing advantage on the digital battlespace.
But it will take more than just technical know-how in order to succeed.
Obviously, there are several hurdles that the armed forces must navigate to adopt edge computing technology, either immediately or eventually. But in our experience, the following three areas represent the most significant roadblocks.
Moving to edge technology requires seeing the art of the possible. It requires a vision of changing the paradigm. And most of all, it requires trust in a new digital platform for military operations: one that replaces a human-intensive logic chain with automated data processing in tactical environments, thereby reducing the warfighter’s cognitive burden and improving performance.
For the nation’s defense organizations that are in the business of saving lives and ensuring national security, there’s a healthy amount of skepticism when it comes to introducing this level of change. The military is a highly connected ecosystem, where a shift or investment in one area can have a noticeable impact across an entire service, department, and coalition partners. Proper scrutiny is warranted. However, it’s imperative that we work through skepticism. Edge solutions are already proven and shifting to become the next military innovation. Near-peers on the global battlefield are adopting it, and the nation certainly won’t be waiting on the sidelines.
Many leaders across the defense enterprise have begun to position edge technology as a positive opportunity worth fighting for. It needs to be addressed and integrated in a structured and managed way with a pragmatic and nested roadmap to support ongoing missions. As military branches embrace agile techniques and open architectures to minimize the change any one investment makes across the environment—they can innovate more rapidly to address emerging and urgent operational needs.
From chip manufacturers to application developers, there is a unique set of technology providers that are needed to build and deploy advanced edge computing solutions. These include established and trusted vendors in the market, as well as smaller technology companies that provide critical niche capabilities.
The challenge for organizations is gaining access to this diverse set of suppliers. It’s a discovery process that takes time, which the military can’t afford given the adoption of edge computing among adversaries. With a systems integrator, organizations can convene the right set of technologies for a unified approach. This integrator ensures there is an intentional assembly of suppliers, including non-traditional government partners that are leading the industry in their particular expertise.
“From chip manufacturers to application developers, there is a unique set of technology providers that are needed to build and deploy advanced edge computing solutions.”
In addition, many smaller operations don’t have experience with how the federal procurement process works. They may not be in a position to invest the necessary time and resources needed to bring their innovative tools and platforms to a military audience, and then navigate the security and compliance required for new technology. Therefore, a systems integrator with deep mission understanding can provide technology scouting capabilities as part of designing a holistic edge computing solution.
For example, when Booz Allen initially partnered with the Army, it employed its technology scouting capabilities to ensure the best of breed solutions were rapidly available. The team responded to the client’s various forecasted needs with leading industry R&D pipelines to close capability gaps. Ultimately, this resulted in bringing advanced solutions to meet mission challenges and to deliver value to the warfighter at speed.
To get the most from edge computing, an organization needs to expand its network and the number of devices it uses to gather, share, and make decisions. Because of this expansion, there’s an increase in attack surfaces and potential vulnerabilities. When building an edge computing solution, there must be confidence in security and resilience through:
Apart from cybersecurity built into the foundation, an edge computing framework must be configured as fault tolerant for mission resilience. The interconnected mesh network that powers the solution ensures that mission efforts continue even if a device is compromised. For example, if a node in the network goes down, advanced software can ensure that another one can take its place. This cluster creates a high-reliability environment that won’t fail at a single point.
Ultimately, achieving mission resilience is a serious obstacle that must be addressed and planned for. With cybersecurity engineered into the foundation to mitigate these risks, organizations can explore potential threats and better secure devices as they push the limits of what technology can do at the modern edge.
“If a node in the network goes down, advanced software can ensure that another one can takes its place. This cluster creates a high-reliability environment that won’t fail at a single point.”
Ultimately, edge computing solutions in the military can mean increasing survivability and lethality. It helps the nation’s defense organizations make sure that warfighters always have the advantage and are never walking into a fair fight. With edge services, we provide the tactical advantage to ensure overmatch on the next-generation battlefield and widen the near-peer gap.
At the same time, combat missions aren’t the only applications that benefit from edge computing. Here are a few other applications that Booz Allen is engaged in to provide edge solutions for clients to meet their pressing needs:
The technology industry is quickly moving beyond the traditional, central IT enterprise. Organizations have the opportunity today to push the boundaries of computing performance and efficiency to where individuals on the front lines need information to make safe, smart decisions. Finally, full situational awareness is within reach—no matter how remote the mission.
Edge computing enables decentralized decision making beyond the IT enterprise—even in remote environments. Learn how edge computing can help achieve mission success at the tactical edge. Read More