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Improved signal processing: On the battlefield and in cyber-space

Enhanced signal processing

IvySys Technologies, a small business located in Arlington, VA, is tackling a big problem that has plagued war-fighters in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere for years: How can a tactical operator in the field process in real-time all the information he is being fed from various land-based and airborne sensors, so he can best direct the activities of his nearby troops.

Currently, the U.S. military employs a wide variety of sound, vibration, RF energy and other sensors that can help field commanders understand where enemies are located, on which mountain paths adversaries may be walking, where trucks are headed, which radios are transmitting tell-tale signals, and what machinery and equipment sitting in enemy locations is switched on or off.

Unfortunately, says Dr. James A. DeBardelaben, the CEO of IvySys, in most cases the military does not have the capability to process that flood of sensor data in real-time, out in the field. Instead, it is forced to send that data back to a larger remote headquarters, or back further to the United States, where professional signals analysts can try to make sense of the deluge of information. The advantages that could be gained for U.S. troops in the field -- where to attack; when to lay low -- are often lost because it is so complicated, and takes so long, for this data to be processed and converted into “actionable” intelligence, says DeBardelaben.

To address this deficiency, IvySys announced on March 8 a new comprehensive suite of advanced engineering services and technologies which it has dubbed “Real-Time Intelligence Analysis.” This offering, says IvySys, provides the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community with several benefits:

Better and faster signals processing. IvySys uses a “signatures library” of known sensor signals that can help it identify human activity, radio transmissions, engine noises, vehicular traffic and more. But it also has developed techniques to weed out the clutter of background signal information, so it can focus instead on specific threats. “We have come up with signal processing techniques to eliminate some of that interference,” explains DeBardelaben.

Multi-sensor fusion dashboard. Perhaps more importantly, IvySys says it has developed user-friendly display techniques, frequently based on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies, that enable signals analysts in the field to merge various data streams and make more sense of the information, so field commanders can immediately put the information to use.

For example, most “raw” signals information used on the battlefield today looks like incomprehensible colored screens on computer monitors, showing indistinguishable static and occasional colored bars and lines (which indicate some sort of “anomaly” in the field. ) But few tactical operators know how to interpret this data in a way that will do their troops much good, says DeBardelaben.

The “holy grail,” says DeBardelaben, is the ability to convert this signals data into useful information which can identify the source of the signal, track its movement and pinpoint its location on a geographic information system (GIS) map. IvySys claims to have accomplished just that.

DeBardelaben says his company’s technology is currently being field tested at a U.S. military installation on the East Coast (which he declined to name), and will be carefully evaluated.

IvySys comes out of the signals processing arena in the U.S. Intelligence Community, and is naturally oriented toward enhancements in signals processing for battlefield applications. But it is also hoping to put its skills to work in the red-hot field of cyber-security, where the ability to detect anomalies in vast amounts of computer network traffic could prove to be extremely useful.

“Our core competence is real-time processing of data,” explains DeBardelaben. “We try to detect anomalies in data.” He expects that his company’s innovative technologies will enable it to define the “steady state” of a computer network, as a first step in spotting worrisome anomalies.

Just as the company’s signal processing skills can help a soldier on the battlefield improve his “domain awareness,” the company’s capabilities can theoretically help a network administrator identify vulnerabilities in his or her computer network.

“We’ll make it easier to determine when he is under attack, and then to neutralize that attack,” concludes DeBardelaben.