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DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 13 | SEP 2015
This means that there is a separate on and off button and controls
just for that system. Control is achieved with point-to-point
connections, meaning cables running all over the vehicle from
system to controller.
More recently, vehicles have been using CANbus control for
more and more of their systems. This is the same technology that
is used to control many of the systems in your car. There is still
dedicated hardware to control the system (e.g the engine start
button) but the controller communicates data networks that
are shared by many systems. The controller publishes a signal
on a CANbus and the hardware receives that instruction by
subscribing to those signals.
But this is not open architecture. There is no network controller
– s omething that is aware of the whole system and can manage it.
The core technology of open architecture is ethernet; the vehicle
using the same internet protocol (IP) address as the internet.
Everything has an IP address. Power and data connectors,
network structure and video infrastructure are defined by
a standard (such as GVA or NGVA). There is also a network
controller that comprehends the whole system and can manage it.
This introduces a number of advantages. The main advantage is
that generic tools can be used to control a lot of different systems.
A generic operating station, for example, might control a UAV, a
UGV and the surveillance mast on the neighbouring vehicle. It
also might be used to drive the vehicle from the backseat.
In effect, each of these systems becomes an application for the
generic work station. Just like a smart phone, a multi-function
touch screen can display the relevant controls and images. Some
generic hardware such as a joystick or steering wheel might also
be incorporated in the generic work station.
Another advantage includes lower training liability for
new systems. Operators are already familiar with the generic
operating station. They just need to learn the application.
In general, it should also make the integration of new systems
less time-consuming and less expensive. But this shouldn’t be
confused with plug-and-play. Plug-and-play works because the
application software is relatively inexpensive and when you plug
in the new system (e.g a keyboard), it can reach into the internet
for the application. This is not inconceivable for a military vehicle
but would be a brave new world. In short, there will be some time
and effort between realisation of true plug-and-play.
Open architecture brings challenges too. An important one is
that it is open to attack. Using the same methods that hackers use
to take control of a banking system, an enemy can gain access to
the vehicle network and take control of it and anything else that it
might be controlling.
Another challenge relates to the availability of military
specification network components with sufficient performance
and versatility. In many cases, the military market is not large
enough to warrant the investment from commercial suppliers to
design and produce bespoke components for military applications
If Land 400 is to achieve the open architecture goals envisioned
for the CRV, it will need to work through the details, set realistic
expectations and be prepared to pay something for development.
It might be some time before the Land Combat Vehicle System
feels like a smart phone. – James Walsh
ABOVE: Diagrammatic representation of an open architecture
data bus-centric mission system approach to open architecture.
Image: European Defence Agency
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