Booz Allen Hamilton Develops Software and Designs Ruggedized Devices for Harsh Foot Mobile Environments faced by Early Entry and Expeditionary Forces

Introduction

In the battlefield of the future, Network Centric Warfare (NCW) is the focus of the Department of Defense. The linking together of geographically dispersed combat elements is the key component of NCW and requires equipping and instrumenting tomorrow’s soldier with state-of-the-art electronics. Small, ruggedized handheld devices with ultra-long battery life and which include anti-spoofing Global Positioning System (GPS) circuitry, anti-jamming wireless communications, and other sensors and software will become standard issue. With the explosive growth of commercial wireless communication devices and PDAs and the military’s increasing interest in Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) technology, designers of next-generation soldier’s computers can leverage the mass-market to increase functionality and reduce cost.

Booz Allen Hamilton has been internationally recognized as a business and technology consultant for over 80 years. They are also becoming a key software developer and system integrator for armed services throughout the world. Working as part of the Defense Information Technology Group (DITG) at Booz Allen’s corporate campus in McLean, Virginia, they have focused on the handheld and wireless sector taking a leadership role in helping to define the makeup of future soldier’s computers. Booz Allen’s DITG helps the various armed services by developing and testing device and software architectures, with the results of these tests being used by the armed services in defining technical specifications for volume procurement. Working with InHand Electronics, Booz·Allen has been able to prototype, field, and test a number of handheld computing solutions.

The Windows CE Backpack and Handheld Computer

Two of these systems feature the use of a Windows CE based handheld Pocket COP and backpack-mounted computer devices providing multiple capabilities. The term Pocket COP stands for the use of Pocket PC with a display that provides a Common Operating Picture or COP. The two-computer design works over a wireless link between the two computers to minimize cables and connectors. These two systems are presently linked over wireless short range LAN. They are presently using the IEEE 802.11b wireless Ethernet and a target Bluetooth capability is nearing completion as Bluetooth serves as a wireless cable replacement technology. The Backpack computer serves as a smart junction box for those peripherals that are not yet available with Bluetooth. Peripherals linked directly to the backpack computer include a GPS receiver, Leica Vector IV laser ranging and direction finding binoculars or MELIOS, and several different line of sight or Over the Horizon communications devices such as SINCGARS or Iridium. Booz Allen developed the first data capability over Iridium for an Army client in April of 1999 and that capability is still working well.

The Windows CE based command and control software Booz Allen has developed provides map and image based navigation and situation awareness displays. It also provides as well functions serving surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting missions. Digital messages generated by these systems can be sent 3 to 5 miles over typical line of sight VHF radios to the Army and Marine Corps Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) and the Joint community’s Global Command and Control System (GCCS). If the communications system is Iridium, these same messages can be sent anywhere in the world from the North Pole to the South Pole over a 14.7 oz Motorola 9505 Iridium L-Band transceiver. These capabilities include providing location information for friendly and (known) enemy units on a situation awareness map; allowing users to send preformatted messages such as Call for Fire, Medevac, and OTH Gold JUNIT position reports; and providing instant messaging capabilities to send email-like notes to other Pocket COP users. The Pocket COP is designed to be simple and highly intuitive, requiring minimal user training that runs 8 to 16 hours depending on the configuration.

Because of the application scenario for Pocket COP, battery life, size, and weight were all key usability issues. According to Pete Batcheller, Program Manager at Booz Allen, “Integrating GPS, 802.11, Bluetooth, and a graphical display is difficult enough. Doing so and maintaining a small wearable or handheld form factor that can endure in the battlefield increases the design challenges dramatically.” As a result, Booz Allen selected the Intel StrongARM SA-1110 Microprocessor coupled with the Microsoft Windows CE operating system for development.

The Development Approach

Booz Allen considered using mass-market handhelds, but quickly decided that the Pocket COP’s feature set required them to develop a different approach. Early on, Booz Allen selected InHand’s Elf hardware platform and BatterySmart system software solution for development. With its highly-integrated, low-power development products, InHand was able to assist Booz Allen in accelerating prototype development and testing.

Mr. Batcheller added, “InHand’s hardware and software platforms made integration very straightforward. We were able to deliver a prototype device within a few months that possessed most of the features necessary for the final product. The small size of the final device was due in large part to the level of integration of InHand’s Elf platform, and its exceptional battery life is a testimony to the power management features in the BatterySmart system software drivers. InHand’s solution allowed us to focus on what we do best – the software development and final device integration.”

The Development Process

InHand’s Elf Development Platform (EDP) for Windows CE served as the starting point for the integration and development effort. Booz Allen used the EDP to develop and port GIS (geographic information system) software to the Elf platform, and used the BatterySmart system software drivers to interface with a third-party GPS receiver module and a third-party 802.11 wireless card.

Together, Booz Allen and InHand worked to customize InHand’s OmniMeter 2 for the Pocket COP handheld. The OmniMeter 2 is InHand’s demonstration and prototyping platform. It integrates an Elf hardware platform with LCD display, and batteries inside a rugged aluminum case.

From start to finish, the project took less than 5 months, and 15 Pocket COP devices were part of a field test by the Marines that involved true combat conditions. The Pocket COP units were used and abused for several days in battlefield conditions. The result was very exciting. “All of the units were bumped and bruised, yet all but 2 were still working at the end of the test,” said Batcheller. “For a prototype, this result was outstanding, and we are already receiving additional interest from other military groups.”

Key to this successful result was InHand’s assistance in the development of the Pocket COP. The use of Elf, BatterySmart, and InHand’s consulting practice enabled Booz Allen to deliver a superior product in a very short period of time.