DARPA Hopes to Reach Far and Wide

DARPA hopes to improve communication distanceIf you’re working with brand new technology designed to extend wireless networks to troops in the most remote corners of the world, you best test in some pretty remote locations.

DARPA plans on creating a high-bandwidth, wireless communication system that will run without any physical infrastructure. This system would allow central command bases and other important points of contact to stay in communication with troops out in the field – no matter the distance or what kind of rough terrain lies in between.

The testing phase is likely still a while away, considering DARPA still needs to invent key components in their “Mobile Hotspot” plan, but when they do get ready to test, I image they’ll be testing in some pretty interesting locations. Trying to communicate mission critical information with a group out in the field is not the time to uncover bugs that didn’t occur in the safety of a lab.

Here’s some more information on the project from the DARPA press release:

Providing high-bandwidth communications for troops in remote forward operating locations is not only critical but also challenging because a reliable infrastructure optimized for remote geographic areas does not exist. When you introduce additional needs, such as communication support for data feeds from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) transmitting information to troops on patrol in remote areas, you face a host of new challenges where dropped signals can create a serious threat to a warfighter’s situational awareness.

Read more…

DARPA Prepares for an Apocalypse In-The-Wild

ApocalypseDARPA loves two things: testing in-the-wild and crowdsourcing. We write about them in our blogs for one reason or another (usually pretty cool reasons) every few months or so. This time, they’ve turned their interest in crowdsourced, real-world testing into a game!

DARPA has spread QR codes around the country to represent dispersed resources in the case of an apocalyptic event. Here’s some more information from TechCrunch:

The agency has distributed codes … throughout the continental U.S. “to represent the dispersion of resource concentrations throughout the country.” So there won’t be many pasted to signposts in the great plains, but presumably there will be lots in population- and resource-rich areas like larger cities and ports. How many are there? DARPA isn’t saying, though they helpfully note that the number is “finite.”

Yet it’s not just a scavenger hunt. After all, it would be difficult for an individual or even a good-sized team to physically scan however many tags are out there. And DARPA has already conducted experiments that have proven the efficacy of crowdsourcing a task like that.

So, as DARPA puts it, this is more a test of exchanging information via social media. You’ve got people all over the place scanning these codes, which are supposed to represent water, food, generators, and so on. You advertise what you’ve got, leverage your social connections, start a website, make an app — however you want to do it. The winner is either the person who collects all the codes or the person with the most when the contest ends. [Note: The contest ended on March 12, sorry!]

You’re not going to rank even if you scanned every code for a hundred miles. You need the others to volunteer their information, and they need you to do the same, with the shared goal of getting all that info in one place as fast as possible. It’s a fairly good representation of the problem they are investigating.

Read the full article at TechCrunch >>>

This isn’t just in-the-wild testing, it’s in-the-wild planning! Though, in the case of a natural disaster or the end of civilization, I’m not sure social networks or apps will still be working. Sharing information via pony express seems more likely.