The Internet of Things (IoT) is the inter-networking and communication of physical devices. Objects and machines that can collect and exchange data between one another.
In non-military sectors, there are already a wide range of applications for IoT, ranging from sensors within agriculture that advice a farmer when and where to apply additional nitrogen and/or irrigation, through to providing wireless internet connectivity in remote regions. IoT creates a vast network of digital data, providing feedback and insight into differing operational variables and inputs.
This wide range of applications, and growth in use within a variety of operational sectors has driven rapid progression in the economic value of the IoT market.
Worldwide spending on IoT was an estimated £567 billion in 2016, as organisations increased their investment in the hardware, software, and services that are required to enable IoT connectivity. Projections state that in 2017, 8.4 billion connected things will be used worldwide, up 31% from 2016. Further forecasts state that global IoT spend will achieve a compound annual growth rate of 15.6% between 2015 and 2020, reaching a figure of around £1 trillion in 2020.
For the RAF and MOD, the functional characteristics of IoT technologies lend themselves favourably to a wide range of operational applications. An example of this has been seen with the development of the Maxwell Air Force Base.
Network connected sensors have been incorporated into the everyday operations of the Maxwell Air Force Base, transforming it into a communicative hub. This includes the perimeter fencing controls, gate monitors, and fleet management systems, along with further innovative uses of IoT compatible technologies. All of the individual sensors are capable of relaying real-time information to a central control point, communicating performance figures to systems analysts and other network-connected machinery.
By monitoring and analysing data from various inputs and activities, management and operational strategies have been enhanced to improve site efficiency and productivity through machines communicating their performance standards. By being able to clearly see where products and machines are not performing as desired, users are able to react more quickly and appropriately to malfunctions, thus reducing downtime and unexpected cost issues related to repairs and delays, and minimising the impact on mission critical applications.
For the Maxwell Air Force Base, IoT technologies provide a novel and detailed source of insight into practice and performance variables from multiple indicators. This is helping them to better understand and aggregate vital information on the base, more thoroughly informing their strategies and development moving forward.
The key challenges relating to IoT for the Royal Air Force and Ministry of Defence, are in both understanding key innovations and developments within the sector, and how the complex and private networks this produces can be implemented and kept secure from outside access.
The RAF and MOD foresee a wide range of issues relating to the growth of IoT and communicative technologies over the next decade. The Service is looking to partner with the organisation who can help them deal with key developmental issues in relation to machine generated data management, gateway accessibility, network structuring, and cloud based storage systems.
The urgency for viable IoT security systems and technologies in the Air Force is therefore growing day by day. IoT security needs to address critical aspects of operational security, communication protocol uses vulnerable software patches and unsecured management practices. Owing to these diverse variables, and the rapid growth of the technology sector, 96% of security professionals believe there will be more IoT cyber security breaches this year than previously recorded, a key concern in the RAF’s agenda.
In line with this, there is a huge opportunity for organisations who can provide innovative IoT solutions for the RAF’s and MOD’s networks. The continued evolution of IoT will undoubtedly drive innovation, meaning the Services will need to regularly invest in, update, and enhance their architecture as the technologies and threats advance. The Royal Air Force and Ministry of Defence are increasingly investing more time and resources into finding the IoT organisations and technological applications that will modernise the service, revolutionising daily operations and procedures.