Verizon 5G: Intelligent and Accelerated Speed of Command for Military and Public Safety

22 Jul 2019

It has been called many names: distributed cloud, fog computing, and 4th generation data center, but with the impending mass deployment of 5G a variant of distributed cloud is more commonly referred to as “multi-access edge computing” or “MEC”. The idea behind MEC is to deliver compute, bandwidth, and micro services much closer to the end user and IoT devices for faster and more informed decision making. The REAL benefit of MEC is in the reduction of network congestion (particularly in denied or contested environments) and improved military and public safety application performance by executing task processing closer to the end user, thereby improving the delivery of information and IoT sensor data, and providing the decision-maker with increased information fidelity at shorter ranges. When we were invited to the first cohort for Verizon’s 5G First Responder Labs and learned more about MEC, we quickly realized that the Blueforce platform would deliver immediate and proven edge compute capability, out of the box.  This article shares some of our early experiences with Verizon 5G.

Blueforce provides a mobile edge compute software platform for IoT and AI fusion with edge-based processing, enabling the warfighter or first responder to access capabilities on the fly, share actionable intelligence, and swarm faster than the adversary. Our patented Decentralized Fusion Engine (DFE) and services oriented architecture (SOA) enables serial or parallel processing with edge and/or cloud-based AI, decreasing the need for remote processing and limiting ingress bandwidth to the core and the cloud. This mobile edge compute capability results in an acceleration of recognitional decision making by widening the responder’s aperture to a greater number of IoT sensor inputs, and a wider array of sensor types, delivering superior decision support and accelerated speed of command. Simply put: We have been delivering a mobile edge compute platform since 2011 which has been deployed to the sensor head, mobile compute devices, and far forward portable compute environments for DoD, Homeland Security, and public safety.

During the June launch of the Verizon 5G First Responder Labs in New York City, we were able to demonstrate far edge compute and services in support of first responder and national security scenarios to include our Hyper Enabled Responder (TM), K9/military working dogs, and fused unattended ground ground sensors for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) mission sets. A large part of the demonstration was borne of our ability to rapidly deploy core Blueforce services which included edge-mediated cognitive services/AI, media services, and our new Discovery Service for First Responders on the Verizon 5G MEC. Deployment time to deploy the Blueforce mobile edge compute software platform and services to the MEC took less than two hours, worked out of the box, and yielded immediate operational advantage that included:

  • Blueforce Discovery Service is our new BlueforceEDGE plugin that turns proximity and context into operational value by making users aware of people, competencies, and resources that are near the requester. We ran a query scenario where an incident commander was in need of an EOD specialist (competency) who might also have a Bomb dog (resource) on the local MEC and saw response times shrink to single digit milliseconds delivering faster recognition and localized notification as new resources became available.
  • Tactical Media Services (i.e., streaming UAV, K9 cameras, unattended ground sensor imagery, and BlueforceTACTICAL body worn streaming video) and the consumed streams by other Blueforce users on the 5G edge saw a reduction in latency of more than 50% for streaming content, and more importantly, jitter went to almost zero providing high fidelity streams without pixelation. Given the robustness of 5G mesh awareness, we are now studying how Blueforce can leverage MEC virtual network functions to achieve more intelligent video acceleration.
  • Cognitive Services on the MEC which were receiving static imagery from OpenCV-enabled infrared ground sensors (unattended ground sensors that only promote imagery when a person is detected in the field of view) and manually promoted images from unattended ground sensors saw a 70% increase in speed in moving raw, and then processed imagery, to and from mobile users and commanders on the ground.

Genesis of the Blueforce Mobile Edge Compute Platform for IoT

In 2008, Blueforce met with a US DoD special operations commander about a problem we had heard several years prior during the early days of OIF. This special operations group deployed with 12 or more body worn or person carried sensors, from different manufacturers, each with their own data format, communications exfil, and Windows application to view the tactical data. The challenge was the intense cognitive lift required of the commander who had to toggle between 12 Windows applications to make sense of what was going on during a mission that might last 40 minutes and span an operational area of no more than 200 meters. The 12 information silos, each with different data formats, created a disjointed operational view that negatively impacted speed of command.  What was needed was an IoT fusion engine that would run on remote and far forward edge compute devices where sensor data could be processed locally, mashed into a single message, and shared securely amongst the team.  From this, our BlueforceTACTICAL mobile platform for mobile edge compute on Android and iOS was born. These requirements blazed the path for our core platform capabilities:

  • Speed of Swarm: Secure, self-forming human and sensor networks for a wide array of mobile platforms which include humans, K9’s, unmanned systems, and sensors.
  • Horizontal Fusion: Distributed sense making of “swarm information” across the team which is presented as processed information that is timely and relevant. This processed information tells a story of what is going on, but when combined with recognitional support, can convey “signatures” that denote deviations from expected mission outcomes.
  • Agile Extensibility: Field operations are fundamentally non-predictive. Blueforce enables rapid adaptation in the field by allowing the operator to enable and disable capabilities on the fly based on mission requirements. More importantly, open APIs and SDK allow rapid creation of Blueforce “plugins” which can be built and deployed in days providing a future-proof and sustainable platform for new edge IoT sensors and artificial intelligence capabilities come online.

One year later, in 2009, a new request emerged from another US DoD agency that had IoT at it’s core, but this time the use case involved unattended ground sensor (UGS) fusion for use in nine (9) joint counter-terrorism tasks forces (JTF) focused on the interdiction of human traffickers and weapons of mass destruction. The problem set was similar to the above requirements, but now required far forward fusion and sharing of 19 different intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) UGS, UAS/UAV platforms, and a need to share the IoT data amongst quick reaction forces (QRF) and dismounts, but also with a far forward Command Post situated less than a mile from the area of operations. In late 2009, our BlueforceEDGE IoT Mobile Edge Compute gateway was born.

Key Lesson Learned: It’s the 5G MEC Services Which Will Transform Military and Public Safety Command

So why is all of this transformative?  It boils down to speed and precision of decision, because seconds matter. Blueforce’s mobile edge IoT sensor fusion platform was designed to support hastily formed and secure non-predictive, multi-domain national security workgroups. Our small unit “swarming” capability supports an operational and technical approach to asymmetric/multi-domain threats and can deliver competitive adaptation for the “blue force” (the good guys) aimed at outpacing technologically sophisticated non-nation-state actors who quickly form, pulse, and disband. Networked swarming has significant advantages over more traditional, linear tactics. It’s an ability to rapidly aggregate and disaggregate people, sensors, and cognitive services amongst and between responder agencies for self-synchronization, shared situational awareness, and rapid convergence with a goal of delivering overmatch against an immediate threat.

We hear a lot about “speed” and “low latency” being the big benefits of 5G where one can now download a two hour movie in 35 seconds. For public safety and national defense, it’s definitely NOT about leveraging 5G to move yet “more information faster” to the response team; it’s about the groundbreaking information and streaming services that deliver processed and relevant meaning to said team. New 5G capabilities will transform incident response and transcend mere data transmission and provide:

  • True horizontal fusion: The combination of networked personnel, IoT sensors, and cognitive support services that enhance meta-recognition in time-stressed decision environments can quickly drive value for the commander. Robust 5G bandwidth and low latency presents the opportunity to leverage the power of the network and distributed mobile edge compute to assist in sense-making for WHAT is going on in an environment based on the processing of the collective subscribed mobile and autonomous endpoints.
  • Higher resolution sensing, orthogonal sensor fusion, and multi-sensor cueing: Blueforce technology has fueled multi-sensor “curtains of detection” for many joint counter-terrorism task forces (JTF) where cascading arrays of sensors, from low resolution to high resolution, trigger some level of sensor cueing, but in all cases a human had to connect the dots to discover a threat. Some of this was because higher resolution sensors such as millimeter wave spectroscopers produced such a rich stream of imagery and data, even 4G environments had trouble moving the stream to the nearby tactical operations center (TOC). Furthermore, a team member would be required to interpret and detect anomolies at the sensor head in the field. 5G now gives us the extreme bandwidth to move high resolution sensor data, but now push AI algorithms closer (and in some cases on) the sensor head using Blueforce’s mobile edge compute IoT fusion platform. Detection and analysis is quicker, and a team member is put back into service for other quick reaction operations.
  • AI to the Edge: 5G speed and low latency is allowing us to push just-in-time componentized AI and cognitive service models to the forward edge, providing a means to accelerate recognitional decision-making by widening the decision-maker’s aperture to greater numbers and types of sensor input and employing advanced cognitive computing tools to process it as far forward as possible for insights and action. Meta-recognition is the essence of a “learning machine” which uses the history of insights and action, provided from forward sensor fusion and edge-based processing to discover new pattern-recognition models and improve existing ones.

We were elated to have been selected by Verizon for the first 5G First Responder Labs cohort and the learnings and experience have been priceless. There is a lot more to come, some of which we can’t share as of this writing.  What excites us the most is this: The Blueforce Mobile Edge Compute platform for IoT sensor fusion is 5G ready and shipping today and is facilitating this “power to the edge”, right now.  For more information, please call us at 866-960-0204 or email us at info@blueforcedev.com.