University of Illinois leads $25M military initiative

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois is leading a $25 million initiative to develop an “internet of battlefield things.”

Officials say the initiative aims to have humans and technology work together in a seamless network. They say the initiative will connect soldiers with smart technology in armor, radios, weapons and other objects to give troops a better understanding of battlefield situations and help them assess risks.

Experts say future military operations will rely less on human soldiers and more on interconnected technology. They say unmanned systems and machine intelligence advances can be used to improve military capabilities.

Officials said the university will lead the effort to develop the scientific foundations for battlefield analytics and services, The News-Gazette reported. The U.S. Army Research Lab will fund the effort for the first five years. The initiative could last 10 years.

UI computer science professor Tarek Abdelzaher will lead the initiative. He said the collaboration between Army researchers and those in academia will change the fundamental understanding of what’s possible with “smart battlefield services.”

Soldiers need a continual flow of information to make the best decisions possible in battle because they are constantly making quick decisions in the face of adverse conditions, Abdelzaher said.

“You need to connect to the right sensors, the right cameras, the right devices to collect the right pieces of information,” Abdelzaher said.

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