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DARPA Unveils an Android-Based Ground Sensor Device

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the it's-detecting-time dept.

Android 28

DeviceGuru writes "DARPA announced a sensor reference system device based on a new Android-based sensor processing core called the ADAPTable Sensor System (a.k.a. ADAPT). The initial ADAPT reference device, called UGS (unattended ground sensor), is designed as the basis for a series of lower-cost, more upgradable sensor devices for military applications. The ADAPT program is part of larger effort by the U.S. military to reduce the costs and speed production schedules for military equipment, using an ODM process similar to that of the commercial smartphone industry. Potential applications for the technology include swarms of hive-mind UAVs or robots, or perimeter security sensors hidden at a deployed airfield or underground, all networked together and capable of transmitting video."

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BEAT THEM TO IT !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43869831)

My feet !!

JEOPARDY QUESTION (1)

sanman2 (928866) | about a year ago | (#43870759)

WTF is a Ground Sensor??

Re:JEOPARDY QUESTION (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43872171)

Something that senses the ground. Important if you are a drone and flying and don't want to crash. As we see the push for drones being used inside the U.S. borders possibly over residential areas this tech might be used to dissuade safety fears.

Re:JEOPARDY QUESTION (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43872353)

A sensor that sits on the ground. As opposed to one that flies in the air or sits on a vehicle.

Open sauce (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43869853)

They should have used IOS so they could write it in C. The Java will memory leak for unattended apps. Plus it's slow as crap anyways.

Re:Open sauce (1)

Namarrgon (105036) | about a year ago | (#43869901)

"Lower-cost" was a criterion. Just compile natively with the Android NDK [android.com] in C/C++ or any compatible language.

Re:Open sauce (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43870171)

They should have used IOS so they could write it in C.

They couldn't use iOS even if they wanted to because Apple isn't licensing it. And they can write C code under Android.

The Java will memory leak for unattended apps.

Quite the opposite: C/C++ code is at risk for memory leaks. People occasionally retain pointers in Java, but those problems are easy to track down. More importantly, with Java, there is no risk of memory corruption.

Re: Open sauce (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43870595)

You're funny. I like you.

Re:Open sauce (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43877699)

Pork chops and apple sauce.

Android? (1)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about a year ago | (#43869993)

Why Android?

I mean I'm a big proponent of embedded Linux, but I just can't understand why every big company or government that deals with embedded devices wants Java on there. I understand the need for high level APIs and using common systems, but still. Android is a monster designed for tablets and phones. If you stripped out the UI you wouldn't really have android any more. You'd just have an embedded Linux platform with a few Java APIs on top.

That isn't to say Android is useless. It's designed for tables, phones, and mobile devices. So, use it for those things. There's just no need for a headless sensor to be running so much unused crap.

Ahh well, welcome to the military industrial complex. A place where Agile development doesn't exist and the requirements docs for waterfall are changed every other month. That plus a little pork here and there show just why those cost plus contracts end up taking so much money.

what alternative do they have? (3, Insightful)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43870157)

They want a mainstream, widely used platform for the developer, tool, and libraray support. They don't want to use C/C++ as their primary language (but have the option of using it when necessary). For R&D, an embedded UI is useful. For audio and video applications, they need an ARM chip anyway (as opposed to a smaller, cheaper embedded chip). And Android is actually optimized for long battery life, audio, video, and sensing (since that's what phones do). Realistically, what other choices are there?

Re: what alternative do they have? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43870619)

Linux.

Android isn't like linux. If I run a Linux server, it's a good idea not to run a GUI or any unnecessary app. With android, android itself is the unnecessary app. Running a GUI that can't be turned off either.

Why not Debian, arch, suse, gentoo or Ubuntu for arm?

Re: what alternative do they have? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43873011)

GNU/Linux...
FTFY

Re: what alternative do they have? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43874247)

Linux has existed for decades and hasn't solved DARPA's problem of rapid development. Android allows them to tap the unused potential of a growing army of (unemployed)app developers. The Android project has a very shallow learning curve with excellent documentation. The toolchain is open source and the applications are device agnostic "in-practice" vs Keil / Cortex M3/M4 development which are device agnostic "in-theory".

Unlike apt-get where you've got a 6 month regression testing bottleneck for installing updates in mission critical systems, Android market can fix Zero-Day bullshit near same day.

If you're going to create the sunk cost of investment in training then choose a platform which will continue to gain market share. When I started writing Android OpenCV apps for AUVs in 2011, my haar cascade object detection code was getting 8 FPS on an 800mhz single processor. In 2012 I was getting 12-13 on a dual core 1.2ghz. Now you can get a Galaxy SIII processor board from Korea for $80. I personally think they are hitching their wagon to the perfect train and am looking forward to the crazy CV and DSP code I'll be reading about on Gizmag in 2015.

If the military wants their new hires ready to do in-house development it's not difficult to get kids playing around with App Writing in K-12. I expect FIRST robotics is going to make the move to Android + ADK and ditch Robot C in the next 5 years.

Re: what alternative do they have? (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43881109)

All those distributions are designed for desktop use; they aren't optimized for low battery usage or embedded applications and they have a huge footprint. None of them currently mainstream Linux GUIs are lightweight, and the Linux GUI space is changing again in unpredictable ways. None of them have an obvious mainstream IDE that you can sit an average programmer in front of and say "start coding". Furthermore, if they'd go that route, they have to program in C/C++, which they don't want. Java on Linux is bloated and doesn't have the libraries they need. MeeGo or one of the other embedded Linux distributions might have been technically OK, but they have nowhere near the market share and virtually no tool or IDE support. Yeah, it sucks that Android is the only choice, but the Linux distros did this to themselves by screwing up the desktop UI and libraries with lots of experimental crap and by still not having any kind of decent HLL for development. You can see the sorry state of regular Linux on low-end machines when you run Linux on a Raspberry Pi. I'd really wish it were different because all these issues spell trouble for Linux in the long run.

Re:Android? (2)

citizenr (871508) | about a year ago | (#43870163)

You might programming to the metal would be better for military, but they are targeting upgradability. They want to be able to load same "apps" on different platforms without recompilation.

Re:Android? (1)

gtall (79522) | about a year ago | (#43871145)

The reason agile isn't used is because it doesn't work with security very well. You must establish high level security properties and track them down to low level enforcement mechanisms. Agile says to build essentially a dirty snowball and when you are done, you will have no clue as to what security is actually provided except some ad hoc mechanisms thrown into an ad hoc design.

Re:Android? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#43873813)

I mean I'm a big proponent of embedded Linux, but I just can't understand why every big company or government that deals with embedded devices wants Java on there. I understand the need for high level APIs and using common systems, but still. Android is a monster designed for tablets and phones. If you stripped out the UI you wouldn't really have android any more. You'd just have an embedded Linux platform with a few Java APIs on top.

That isn't to say Android is useless. It's designed for tables, phones, and mobile devices. So, use it for those things. There's just no need for a headless sensor to be running so much unused crap.

Because the price difference in the end isn't that great. However, an Android developer is cheap because they're plentiful compared to strictly embedded programmers who have to write the BSP and the application layer.

Use Android and the BSP comes mostly for free ,and there are thousands of Android developers willing to write your application software on the cheap. And years down the road, there will still be plenty of Android developers.

Hell, if they could convert AppleTVs to these purposes, they'd probably get iOS devs as well, purely due to numbers.

Re:Android? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#43874473)

Android is safer than Linux because you can set permissions on a per-app basis.

Does not say what h/w they are using... (3, Informative)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#43870245)

Linked articles not very informative...one of the many SoCs available, I suppose. A little more info here, but not much.

http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2013/05/29.aspx [darpa.mil]

Not sure why they need the Android layer; what does that bring above the many distros already available? (Thinking of things like Pi, Arduino...)

What next, DARPA play store?

BTW, for those of you wondering, ODM=Original Design Manufacturers...

Re:Does not say what h/w they are using... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43871037)

Well, it is Android, so obviously they want to put a DARPA Play App on the Google store.

Re:Does not say what h/w they are using... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43878291)

Multithreading, more robust scheduling/task management, more memory needs.

Closest I would say are BeagleBones with run Linux.

Re:Does not say what h/w they are using... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43879473)

Perhaps the Android layer facilitates communication with the new WGS satellites which are much like huge cell-sites in the sky.

Ground Sensor (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43870617)

A Ground Sensor is pretty cool. Now, if they could get a Voltage Sensor too, each Android could store a single bit! Watch out human race, here we come!

Great for spying on Americans (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about a year ago | (#43871163)

Stalin would be jealous

The ancient history of ground sensors (1)

Gim Tom (716904) | about a year ago | (#43872705)

This appears to be what has happened to the systems I worked on back in 1972-1973 while in the Air Force in Thailand. Back then the "ground sensors" were air dropped (mostly) devices that had seismic sensors to detect movement on the Ho Chi Minh trail. There were also types that sensed audio and some other types too, but the majority were ADSIDS which were seismic. They were built with discrete components and some RTL IC technology. There were no microprocessors then and the computer that received the output was a big iron IBM 360. The exact location of the sensors were never known since they were dropped from an F4 doing about 500 Mph. The position error at best was maybe a 50 meter radius. Having GPS tell you were the sensor really is would have been a great advantage, and also having some basic telemetry about the battery status and overall operation would have helped. We only knew when the batteries went dead when the sensor went silent for a long time -- of course that could have been because they changed the route of the trail too -- something that happened often.

Although I have seen some articles on what we did on the web, they are not always completely accurate or complete. For one thing the communications techniques used by the sensors on VHF frequencies were very similar to what latter became ethernet. Something that really gave me deja vu when ethernet came along.

Google Gets Data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43874677)

Does Googles terms of service for Android mean that the military has to send all data collected to Google?

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