At MilSource, our technical team often get questions on how to more easily manage the “networks” now living and communicating on every mobile military vehicle. Implementation teams and integrators are faced with the daunting task of managing hundreds of networks that are the same set of devices just repeated in every mobile vehicle.

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Because customers need to simplify and economize on space, many networking companies are being asked to move beyond traditional networks and look at ways to combine networking and power management. You’ve got devices that need to share data, but they also need to be powered. If you are looking at a mobile military platform, Power over Ethernet (PoE) simplifies cabling and reduces the number of devices needed on a platform.

The same thing is applicable to dismounted soldiers. But they come with an added challenge: different devices from different manufacturers—all needing to communicate with each other—using USB or Ethernet. They all also need power but use portable batteries every one of them—and this creates a dilemma. Weight, battery management, ongoing power needs. All challenges for the dismounted soldier.

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While soldier-carry wearable devices have their own batteries, a centralized power source (usually a Lithium ION battery) is carried to recharge those devices. And, of course, these batteries must be either replaced as they lose charge or recharged by an external power source—the preferred scenario to keep both individual and platoon burdens lower. In this later scenario, Soldier-worn Integrated Soldier Power and Data Systems (ISPDS) must be able to manage both the charge to each wearable device and the recharge of the Lithium batteries.

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The modern soldier is fully equipped with advanced weaponry and communications systems (weapons with sensors, night vision, navigation systems, smart phones and more) all of which require power and must be able to communicate with each other. The data sharing required between just one soldier’s devices has created the concept of a personal area network (PAN) that shares and gathers data, and then distributes that data with other platoon members or to central command.  Integrated Soldier Power and Data Systems (ISPDS)– also be known as Soldier Worn Power and Data Hub, Tactical Soldier System, and several other terms– enable simultaneous data networking between the devices and  power management to keep the devices running. In short, ISPDS delivers both PAN traffic and power management in a single device.

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Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), when used properly, are a great tool for managing data and network access and, thus, reducing data security risks. VPNs are extremely useful for three key reasons:

• “Spoofing” a location so that ISPs don’t track your location and browsing history
• Limiting cybercriminal exposure by encrypting your traffic–even on public Wi-Fi networks
• Encrypting log files and browser history to limit surveillance exposure

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Embedded Ethernet switches have become a staple in military, industrial and automotive applications. For any of these applications, space, performance and reliability have always been key evaluation factors. Typically, embedded Ethernet switches come equipped with 4, 8, 14 and even up to 24 ports on a compact form factor—usually smaller than 4 inches by 4 inches. Embedded switches come in two flavors: managed or unmanaged. If you missed our blog on why you would need managed versus unmanaged Ethernet switches, please check that out here.

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In addition to guns, ammunition, ruck sacs and more, the modern US soldier must now carry electronics– from night vision to radios, and now programs such as Nett Warrior add smartphones, tablets, and GPS to this load. And just like the bullets for a soldier’s gun, a soldier’s electronics need ammo in the form of batteries–and they all need to be able to communicate with themselves to share intelligence both on the field and with central command.

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The Vehicular Integration for C4ISR/EW Interoperability (VICTORY) specification was developed as a standard for US Army vehicles to combat a history of the “bolt-on” approach when adding new communications systems and electronics—systems that were often siloed and had no interoperability between them. This earlier approach often led to duplicate hardware, little future-proofing and  a lack of required economies for size, weight, power and costs (SWAP-C).

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Ethernet is the well-established standard in government, enterprise, and home applications. It is rapidly becoming the standard for military and other rugged applications due to proven interoperability, reliability, and speed. Historically, dedicated bus architectures have been used in military applications, resulting in heavy and somewhat inflexible systems.

Ethernet has been shown as a viable alternative for a number of reasons:

  • • Ethernet and IP technologies are ubiquitous
  • • Ethernet devices are inherently interoperable, encouraging modularity
  • • Rugged commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components are readily available
  • • Ethernet continues to receive large technology investments
  • • Ethernet operates over world-spanning distances using established infrastructures
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Ethernet Backbone

In all mobile military and airborne platforms, the transition from mechanical systems to electronically controlled systems is taking place. As the electronics content continues to grow, so do the processing loads that happen on every platform. Embedded computers are rising in sophistication as they need to support sensors, radar, video streams, and remote-control functions. Distributed processing, the interconnection of devices, and communication between devices has led to an exponential jump in bandwidth requirements on the interconnects between these devices. Traditional protocols like IEEE 1394 and USB still have legacy applications on these platforms, but most new platforms and platform retrofits are turning to Ethernet as their de facto communications protocol, supporting 1 Gbps in most platforms and growing to 10 Gbps in certain payloads.

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