Interoperability: “ Bandwidth is more precious than gold and platinum”

At the recent Ground Robotics Capability Conference (GRCC), I surveyed a number of vendors about what was on their mind. I read them a list of topics that are frequently covered in OCU Pro newsletters as well as AMREL’s corporate blog.

By far, one topic elicited more interest than any other: interoperability. On one hand, I was pleased. AMREL has been a leader for developing solutions that have the ability to “… to work with or use the parts or equipment of another system” (Merriam-Webster definition). For example, our Flexpedient® Solutions enable kit building of Operator Control Units with common control capabilities.

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Recycling, Earth Day, COTS & National Security

April 22 is Earth Day, a time in which we reflect on how our actions affect the environment.  These effects can be quite surprising, even dangerous.  For example, it probably never occurred to you that recycling computers could potentially hamper National Security.

To explain this bizarre chain of causality, let’s explain a few basics.  First, your computer is full of lead and lots of other nasty stuff. That’s why you are not supposed to just dump them the trash; decaying computers can pour a variety of toxins into landfills.  Secondly, your computer is full of gold and other valuable materials.  Computer disposal and recycling is a big business. You may have seen announcements, such as this one in the ARMY Times, offering cash or at least shipping costs for discarded electronics.  Computer and other electronics recycling have become standard features of church and other nonprofit fund drives. Read more

Defense Tech Briefs spotlights the DB6

AMREL’s handheld DB6 is on the cover of this month’s Defense Tech Briefs.  April’s issue’s featured article is “Improving Battlefield Connectivity for Dismounted Forces,” so it’s only natural that they would spotlight the smallest, rugged, handheld in the world that can run a full Windows OS.  Click here  to read about the search for the ideal front-line computing platform.

Is the NIE too big to succeed? Update

NIE3UPDATE: The shine may be starting to fade on the ARMY’s golden boy, the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE). There have been grumblings about the size of the effort (see original blog post below).  Now, its price is raising eyebrows (Officials worry Army’s NIE is too expensive).  NIE costs a whopping $260 million in 2012.

Could be that’s this is just growing pains.  After all, the 2013 request is “only” $214 million, which is especially impressive considering the NIE is under pressure to grow from ambitious officers wanting to participate. This implies that the ARMY is learning how to run the evaluation more efficiently.

Still, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a procurement process that is supposed to be “agile” and cost effective seems a bit counter intuitive.  Maybe the line between boondoggle and success is thinner than is commonly realized. Read more

AMREL on NCIS: Los Angeles

You can spot an AMREL laptop being used as an Operator Control Unit for a PackBot at about 59 seconds into this episode of NCIS: Los Angeles.  For once, TV gives a relatively accurate depiction of how unmanned systems are actually used. Watch video.