The following list forms the basis of the Center's research agenda:
- Network Security. Currently, wireless networks are extremely vulnerable to information assurance attacks. Some of the solutions posed within IPsec may work in the wireless world, but the fact that wireless networks operate in the open ether, poses additional risks. Thus, a major emphasis across the various wireless technologies will be the issue of hacking - both defensive and offensive. Security issues will permeate all other areas of research, below.
- Network Management. Unlike wired networks, there is no analog SNMP or RMON-II standard across wireless networks. Hence it is currently impossible to manage wireless networks as extensions to SNMP networks. Tools such as OpenView and Spectrum simply do not "auto discover" wireless network devices (access point "bridges" contain RMON-II MIBs, but the devices they serve do not). The question is, how will ubiquitous devices be managed? What can be done to enhance the manageability of wireless networks?
- Productivity. Do mobile devices increase or decrease productivity? NPS has already conducted research in this area, both at sea and ashore. In the NPS experiment that automated the watch command function onboard an aircraft carrier, wearable computers appeared to improve reliability and productivity. But how far might this extend to other Navy applications such as supply-chain management, maintenance manuals, inventory management, etc.? The online service benefits of these devices need to be explored. In addition possible disadvantages of mobile devices need to be understood prior to their deployment. Could certain mobile devices because of the distracting nature of screens or other feedback mechanisms cause more harm than good?
- Grids. The wi-fi network is typically implemented in consumer electronic appliances such as home entertainment centers, etc. by adding 802.11 PAN (Personal Area Network) cards to computers, video games, and DVD players. This allows consumers to push videos and music around the living room, for example. More recently, this technology has been used by groups such as Freenet and GridNetworks to build ad hoc persistent networks centered on shopping malls, gasoline stations, and stadiums. Ad hoc networks work much like short-range cellular networks but with much higher bandwidth. Access stations placed around a shopping mall, for example, can sense the presence of a wireless device such as a PDA and relay the short-range wi-fi signal to the Internet backbone. Such a network could turn ordinary hand held devices into terminals with broadband access to the Internet. The application of this technology to military operations remains unclear, but consider the deployment of a wi-fi based ad hoc networks onto a battlefield or across a fleet of ships. Assuming each person is both an access point and a receiver of wi-fi network signals, an ad hoc network can be deployed automatically by merely relaying the short-range wi-fi signal from person-to-person. Thus a grid is set up that can sustain a high bandwidth connection for as long as the participants are within 100 meters of one another. Potential applications of ad hoc networks merit further study because of their utility to rapid deployment, forward forces, and broadband wireless network applications.
- Location-Based Computing. GPS receivers can easily be combined with mobile devices and linked together to form a network grid as described above. The resulting network can provide highly accurate "GPS traces" which can be analyzed by appropriate software to dynamically create various kinds of maps. Hence, location-based computing emerges as a new information superiority weapon. A field commander, for example, could view the GPS traces or "signatures" left by his or her troops and determine, before the enemy, vulnerabilities and emerging weaknesses in defensive lines. Similarly, GPS traces that emerge from ship, airplane, and tank movements reveal, ahead of real time, weaknesses that may preclude the outcome. This technology has not been studied in great detail, and hence provides a new research area focused on location-based computing. Such "mapping applications" go far beyond the obvious use of GPS traces in cartography.
- Context-Aware Computing. Related to Location-based computing, context-aware computing uses a wide range of inputs, including location, time, activity, presence of other people or equipment, etc. to provide advice, information and assistance to the user. Currently, most wearable computer systems require a great deal of the user's attention, both in inputting data about the world and the user and retrieving the system's output, to be useful in most situations. However, Context-Aware computing is envisioned as being easy to use, ideally being transparent to the user and taking very little of his/her time to use.
- Transforming technology for 21st century warfare. How will mobile devices change U.S. military forces? How will our adversaries use such technology? Are there poorly understood barriers to the use of this technology by certain groups? These and other questions must be explored.
- Electronic Signatures. Even though low-power wi-fi ad hoc networks have limited range, tests onboard aircraft carrier class ships have shown that emissions can be detected as far as 30 miles away. The electronic signature of these devices needs to be studied in the context of both offensive and defensive detection. Hence a final area of study will be the electrical properties of wi-fi, 3G, and Bluetooth networks in the context of stealth operations.
- Wireless Propagation. Successful design and operation of wireless networks requires an understanding of the propagation of microwave signals in the various environments (urban, indoor, battlefield, shipboard, etc.) where the systems will be used.
- Wireless Signals Intelligence. Approaches to detection, interception, classification and exploitation of wireless signals in different frequency bands will need to be developed.
- Navy-Specific Applications. In addition to general-purpose network connectivity for mobile PDAs, wearable PCs, laptop PCs, and other computers, 802.11 wireless LANs and Bluetooth technology offer many unique productivity-improvement opportunities for Navy-specific applications such as development and deployment of wireless gages and sensors onboard ships.
- Electromagnetic Interference and Compatibility (EMI/EMC). To permanently install wireless LANs onboard naval ships, wireless LAN components must be tested and certified against MIL-STD with respect to electromagnetic interference (EMI) and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). Commercial wireless LAN components comply with FCC Part 15 requirements, but may not comply with MIL-STD requirements.
- Heterogenous Wireless Testbed. A wireless testbed will be required to investigate enabling technologies, interference and compatibility and wireless applications. The testbed will permit analysis of performance, scalability, interoperability and integration of emerging standards and technologies for wireless digital networks. The testbed will feature heterogeneous open source and commercial off-the-shelf components, as well as specialized high-assurance components for trustworthy enforcement of security for Navy enterprise applications. The testbed will permit emulation and analysis of shipboard wireless applications to ensure security and Quality of Service in battle conditions.