Big Data
President Obama and others watch the Osama Bin Laden raid unfold
Here at SatCom Frontier we have recently discussed the scope of the technological transformation occurring around the world today. One of the more important aspects of that transformation for national defense is the broadening adoption of Big Data analytics. Modern military platforms produce gigantic amounts of data on a continuous basis that must be collected, processed, analyzed, disseminated and ultimately presented in a timely, actionable way to inform effective decision-making. Big Data analysis has transformed some aspects of military decision-making. But one area that had lagged behind was satellite-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). Traditional satellite bandwidth with relatively low throughput simply could not support the real-time transmission of all the intensive data being collected by aero platforms in theater. Operators adapted to this constraint and many times the data had to be downloaded to a media device, which was collected after the vehicle landed and then taken to another location for analysis. This delay sometimes resulted in valuable information being overlooked until days, weeks, or months later. By then, the information was no longer “actionable” and resulted in great frustration by all those involved in the process. Operators, analysts and decision makers struggled to shorten this cycle but the throughput constraints seemed unsolvable. Until now. High-throughput satellite (HTS) systems dramatically accelerate this cycle enabling transmission of data in real time so that analysts can quickly identify “actionable” information and improve both the quality and speed of decision making. HTS satellites like Intelsat EpicNG can provide far more throughput, up to 300 percent more throughput, than existing wideband satellites. Performance is improved not only in bits per second per Hertz, but also in the aggregate MHz available and the geographic area covered. This increased capability enables analysis of satellite ISR to begin immediately, thereby increasing the speed of informed decision-making in the field. This increased throughput also enables faster document and media exploitation (DOMEX) from captured documents and media in the field. Taken together, this increased velocity of data for improved analytics of Big Data can result in superior information and decision making at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. Looking ahead, the military will need all this throughput and more. With the increasing capabilities of mobile biometrics (such as wearable technology that is getting smaller while providing more functions – monitoring heart rate, GPS location, full motion sensors, and more), and body cameras (such as GoPro), the goal of making “every soldier a sensor” is rapidly becoming a reality. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and satellite technology will enable this transmission in real time for better command and control, force protection, and decision making. Simultaneously, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M) applications will improve logistics and supply train tracking. IoT will take radio-frequency identification to the next level, improving not only tracking of materials but also improved maintenance that will increase efficiency and reduce cost. Perhaps the most important value is that every truck and convoy can also provide an additional source of information passively – without any additional burden on these operators as they focus on their mission. This ubiquitous connectivity will require not just one solution but an eco-system of satellites. Broadband from geostationary orbit satellites as well as from low-earth orbit satellites, such as OneWeb. And the massive amounts of throughput that only HTS will be able to provide, such as the Intelsat EpicNG satellite platform, will be key in this eco-system. Like the real-time visibility that President Obama and team had during the Osama Bin Laden raid in 2011, every decision maker from the tactical to the strategic level will demand an operational picture in real time. Satellites and Big Data will play a critical role in meeting this requirement. Dramatic increases in space-based performance and flexibility will naturally give rise to new services and usage models that we cannot envision today. To support such new uses, Intelsat’s EpicNG HTS platform will one day allow for software-defined payloads that enable over-the-air firmware and software updates, ensuring that the technology and performance levels available to government are always on the cutting edge of technology. After decades of relative tranquility, space is going through a period of profound change. Commercial innovation is introducing next-generation technology in space, while other countries around the world look to enhance their space capabilities. Governments should look for ways to take advantage of commercial capabilities faster, testing and evolving new technologies and moving more swiftly from prototypes to operational systems. HTS will soon close the current aero gap for real-time Big Data analysis. But in an increasingly net-centric world, more demand is coming. When every soldier produces megabits of data on a constant basic, the military will need a satellite eco-system, including HTS capacity, to maintain superior situational awareness in theater. Planning for that future collaboratively is the best way to ensure that the commercial industry will develop and supply the right technical solutions in space.