Tactical Mobile Clouds and Coalition Operations


Submitted by COL Kevin Huggins

Problem statement

US experience with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has illuminated the need for information sharing. In particular, soldiers at the lowest tactical level continue to have an increasing need to share information with a growing and diverse set of partners. Such an environment requires adaptive technologies that enable soldiers to securely share information. Additionally, policy structures must be available to provide soldiers the needed flexibility. Unfortunately, policy and technological developments have not kept pace with this evolving environment.

The central idea is that improvement of decision support systems to aid in planning and executing coalition operations requires improvement of science and technology for sharing valued information across multiple temporal and spatial scales among a broad range of government and non-government agencies.

We propose to address these problems by developing a tactical mobile cloud implemented on a swarm of heterogeneous, semi-autonomous robots. We then will use the mobile cloud to support a tactical military unit executing a simulated HADR mission operating within a coalition environment. We will use this scenario as a framework to design, build and test appropriate policy structures.

Figure 1. Mobile cloud supporting a convoy in a HADR scenario


Recent disasters such as the Haiti earthquake in 2010 highlight the need for international partnership. We propose a humanitarian assistance/disaster recovery (HADR) scenario centered on a notional country. A small village has been isolated because of a natural disaster and the local population is in distress due to lack of food, water and other essentials. The situation is complicated by the fact that there are hostile elements in the vicinity that oppose any outside intervention. An infantry platoon leader has the mission of leading a convoy to bring in the needed supplies. The convoy consists of a coalition of international partners, both government and non-government organizations. We will use this scenario as a framework to design, build and test technical solutions as well as to investigate appropriate policy structures in coalition environments.

Research questions

Given the problem description and interdisciplinary context above, the questions can generally be categorized as policy or technology related issues. The questions we intend to answer are as follows:

Policy related-

• What are the policy barriers to information sharing in coalition environments?

• How do you develop policy model checkers to identify meta-policies and to predict policy choke points?

• How do you resolve policy, cultural, political challenges with a diverse coalition?

Technology related-

• How can one share protected data in real time given the time constraints for multiple time scales and meeting time constraints for satisfying Quality of Information, Utility of Information, and Value of Information requirements?

• How can you provide identification management for intermittent (fixed and mobile) networks?

• What are the information channels needed to link tactical networks to appropriate nodes in other (coalition) networks and flowing the appropriate information/policies to meet mission constraints?

• How can you dynamically adjust the swarm coordination, and optimize the sensing and communication elements of the mobile swarm nodes in dynamic environments to achieve the best trade-off between performance and (battery) energy utilization?

• How can you develop an ad-hoc networking protocol that provides dynamic data routing and gateway selection capabilities to the heterogeneous swarm in unpredictable environments?

• What is the solution to the multiple-attribute utility theory problem for the robot swarm sensor suite planning problem (which sensors are assigned which tasks to achieve information sensing requirements)?

• How can you implement an adaptive hardware capability on individual swarm nodes to support repurposing based on environmental requirements?


We have assembled an impressive team of experts from around the world that are committed to addressing the challenges of information sharing in coalition operations. This interdisciplinary group will leverage their diverse backgrounds to address this multi-dimensional problem.

Figure 2. Members of the research team at a planning meeting in September 2012

California State University at San Bernardino – The CSUSB’s Innovation and Policy Analysis Project (IPA) will provide data from surveys of soldiers to serve as a basis for future research as well as potentially conducting additional surveys with soldiers that define specific information sharing and policy barriers that affect efficient need-to-know information transfer.

US Military Academy at West Point – USMA will leverage and extend their Flowing Valued Information project that includes an adaptive, computing cloud to securely share information in ad hoc environments at the lowest tactical level, based on a commander’s need to share. Additionally, the West Point group will be responsible for integrating the technical efforts of the research team to develop a tactical mobile cloud implemented with a swarm of semi-autonomous robots that enhance dismounted soldiers’ ability to share information.

Nanyang Technological University – Technical – The NTU technical team would leverage their signal processing and communication efforts to the wireless sensing and networking aspects of the robotic swarm. Their goals would be to enhance an unmanned robotic swarm with energy-saving coordination, radar- and vision- based navigation and sensing capabilities, as well as robust and energy-saving ad-hoc networking connectivity.

Nanyang Technological University – Defense Policy – Identify the policy barriers to sharing information that may arise with the enhance capabilities provided by the proposed mobile cloud. Develop policy solutions to these barriers.

Defense Research and Development – Canada at Valcartier – The DRDC team will develop formal models to analyze policies and identify their shortcomings, especially in a coalition context when several policies must be jointly executed. Indeed, some conflict between policies may occur which could result in the failure of the mission. Also, as a by-product of this analysis, leaders would be equipped with solution paths for adjusting policies.

University of Bordeaux I – The computer science laboratory at the University of Bordeaux will develop techniques for enhancing information availability over intermittently connected ad-hoc networks.

San Diego State University – SDSU would operationally manage the project. It would also provide access to qualified faculty with the expertise to contribute to the research and/or to providing operational testing facilities. Specifically, the Visualization Lab would be a valuable, experienced resource. The Lab has years of applied research with evidence-based results analysis from working data transfer issues between the military, First Responder and Department of Homeland Security communities via exercises across communities. Their research includes the use of cloud computing and social media delivered on both military and civilian technologies.


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