If you ever watched the original Star Trek, you know that the first nameless actor to beam down to the M-class planet they were exploring was doomed.
Preston Marshall, in his presentation here at DARPATech, used this sci-fi truism as an example of the challenges of tactical networking. Too often the junior officer or enlisted warfighter has information command and control wants and is waiting for verbal instructions. The gap can be deadly.
Already, every soldier is a decision-making node. High quality decisions require high-quality information.
One initiative DARPA is working on to improve connections at every level of command and control is the Wireless Network after Next (WNaN).
The typically way-out goal is self-organizing, self-healing, fully adaptive, fully autonomous network nodes that cost under $500 apiece.
Cheap is key, Marshall said. A massive tech improvement with a massive increase in price won't help. These nodes need to be basically disposable if they're ever going to be difference-makers in combat situations. By contrast, UAVs often serve as a network node today. But a multi-million dollar platform from a multi-billion dollar program just doesn't have the same deployability as a $500 network node. Many and cheap are key factors to this vision of dense networking.