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IoT adoption in the military: Potential challenged by "stovepipe" deployments

By Max Burkhalter
August 31, 2018

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to explode in the private sector, the military is tapping into IoT powered technology to drive logistics and supply chain management.

Adoption of IoT devices has been supremely beneficial to civilian manufacturing and supply chain operations, making it possible to effectively manage vast numbers of assets and complicated distribution processes. Productivity and profitability are increased by connected devices that deliver real time data to drive informed decision making.

IoT implementation in the military can provide significant benefits for military logistics and supply chain management; implementation of connected devices can revolutionize military supply chain processes. Leveraging Big Data, analytics, and automation can streamline operations, reducing cost and increasing efficiency.

Military IoT Logistics Applications
According to a CSIS report Leveraging the Internet for a More Efficient and Effective Military, IoT devices are capable of gathering more data, completing complex analysis and faster reactions more quickly, and reducing human error to deliver more precise capabilities and solutions.

However, report authors Denise E. Zheng and William A. Carter state that while the DoD has driven innovation in select areas such as sensors and control systems, they are "falling behind in deployment of IoT technologies that have the potential to deliver new capabilities and cost savings."

The DoD is challenged by interoperability issues, as the admittedly wide range of IoT-related technologies have been developed in isolated "stovepipes." This hampers communication and siloes data, significantly reducing the benefits of IoT adoption. The lack of clear benefits in the field creates friction between officials requesting further IoT deployment and the commanders in charge of actual implementation, according to research by Deloitte.

Millions of sensors have been launched by the DoD via extensive network infrastructures, but most fail to leverage the full capabilities of IoT connectivity. Creating hubs to effectively centralize and analyze data can improve asset tracking, inventory management, warehouse and fulfillment operations, and workflow processes.

Soliders marchingThe military could see many benefits by embracing the IoT.

Barcodes vs. RFID Tagging
Lack of automation, patchworked IT structures and limited data processing capability paired with outdated manual inventory methods have historically contributed to inaccuracies in data collection, storage, retrieval and analysis. This led to a high level of inefficiency in military supply chain administration. The rise of IoT driven logistics has energized the vertical, creating solutions to resolve most data-related logistics challenges.

The military was an early adopter of radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging, but never fully took advantage of their potential until recently, due to the cost of implementation and tracking on package-level items. With the success of IoT concepts being applied to civilian retail supply chains, it became apparent that RFID tagging could significantly improve military logistics as well.

According to Mojix, outdated barcode technology that requires line-of-sight is rapidly being discarded by military operations in favor of RFID tagged assets, which can be scanned as they pass through a gate or checkpoint without the need to find individual tags on varying or hazardous items. The result is greater accuracy and asset visibility, accompanied by reduced time and labor.

IBM, IoT, and AI for Army Logistics
A long standing partnership with IBM has enabled the Army to implement significant operational efficiencies across its Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA), and in 2017 IBM announced a new contract designed to help the Army predict vehicle maintenance failures using more than 5 billion data points delivered by on-board IoT sensors. The Army is also adopting Watson IoT services, including an Equipment Advisor solution to analyze sensor data directly from military assets, allowing LOGSA to predict mission-critical failures.

According to LOGSA Commander Col. John D. Kuenzli, "Over the past four and a half years, LOGSA has benefited from the business and technical advantages of the cloud. Now, we're moving beyond infrastructure-as-a-service (IAAS) and embracing both platform and software-as-a-service (SAAS), adopting commercial cloud capabilities to further enhance Army readiness."

With DoD situated to press forward with more integration and deployment of IoT technology, Perle is ready to offer assistance as the department streamlines logistics and supply chain processes. Our comprehensive array of ethernet extenders, media converters and terminal servers provide dependable support for DoD supportive frameworks.


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