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Adaptable Sensor System for Real-Time Data on the Front Line

DARPA taps SRI to deliver usable video and analytics to U.S. Armed Forces when and where they need it.

When DARPA realized that most civilians had better access to mobile video than soldiers in theater, they asked for a quicker way to get this technology to the front line. SRI was selected to build low-power, low-bandwidth video services for enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. According to YouTube, 100 hours of video are shared on the channel every minute. We can search, record, and share video almost instantaneously. But, until recently, our armed forces did not have this essential capability. When seeing, understanding, and sharing information could mean the difference between life and death, why is military equipment so far behind?

One reason is development time. While military computing systems can take up to eight years to develop, comparative commercial systems take approximately two years—driven by competitive pressures. Other major obstacles are bandwidth and power limitations in active war zones. While many civilians complain about waiting 30 seconds to share a three-minute HD video, soldiers in the battlefield struggle sharing a simple picture.

The DARPA ADAPTable Sensor System (ADAPT) program was designed to overcome these challenges and provide soldiers with up-to-date equipment for mission-specific applications.

Under the ADAPT program, SRI was asked to build video services that provide soldiers with real-time sensor data in bandwidth-limited areas. The technology was required to be inexpensive and easily manufactured. To accomplish this, SRI integrated advanced video analytics software into commercial smartphone processors that can be quickly configured and updated as needed.

SRI’s solution was a mobile video server that could provide search and retrieval services over limited wireless channels using less than one watt of active battery power. More specifically, the technology was able to provide full-motion video (FMV) at bit rates up to 10 times lower than rates typically used in commercial broadcast applications—allowing users to search, tag and share video in bandwidth-limited areas.