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ASU team helps Marine base prepare to stay strong in the face of disaster

February 14, 2019

Installation Next events designed to develop solutions for base resiliency related to energy, water, communications and mobility

Disasters stop normal life dead in its tracks. Schools, stores and businesses shut down and wait it out.

But what if that’s not an option? What do you do if you have to keep operating, no matter what has happened?

That’s what Marines do, and that was the question Arizona State University experts helped answer at a recent exercise held at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu.

Some military infrastructure can be built with codes and standards that are 30 years old, and base buildings can be 60 years old or more.

“They weren’t built to withstand the types of threats — increasing incidents of severe weather, cyberattacks — which weren’t present back then, or different types of advanced weaponry that can assault buildings or personnel,” said Nathan Johnson, an assistant professor in the Polytechnic School of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. JohnsonJohnson is also a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. is an expert on sustainable and resilient energy systems.

Marine Corps Installation Command asked a team of seven ASU experts to visit the base to help them understand problems and develop solutions related to base resiliency in the areas of energy, food, water, communications and mobility: If the Corps is going to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure that needs to be around for 60 years or more, what will that look like?

The exercise was part of a series of events the Corps is holding called Installation Next. Considerations include resiliency and combat support.

The Corps contacted ASU’s flag officers, wanting to work on the concept of base resiliency.

“We’ve had some work with them in the past, and they wanted to firm up the relationship,” Johnson said.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, special adviser to ASU President Michael Crow, looked for ASU experts in the field.

“Clearly, Arizona State University is the innovative partner that has the interdisciplinary talent to support the Installation Next Hawaii symposium,” said Freakley. “ASU was the first university to establish a sustainability school in the U.S., and we remain the national leaders in that space. We have the right expertise and passion to assist our Navy-Marine Corps team in finding sustainability solutions to bolster resilience so they can advance their mission unimpeded.”  

Mikhail Chester, an expert in sustainable infrastructure and an associate professorChester is also a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, also brought a cohort to the exercise.

Day 1 of the exercise looked at threats: “Take a punch." Day 2 looked at maintaining critical operations: “Stay standing." Day 3 was about response: “Punch back.” (Although a response could also involve community disaster relief.)

The problem the ASU team worked on was how do you connect a diversity of assets that are not all susceptible to the same type of threat? If half the assets are affected, how do you maintain critical operations with the remaining half? If there’s an extreme event, whether it’s kinetic cyber, or natural, how do you change the configuration of those assets around on the fly so you can rearrange power infrastructure from noncritical areas to critical areas? If you’re at 25 percent capacity on your electrical infrastructure, how do you maintain 100 percent capability to carry out your mission? For example, if a similar situation occurred in your home, you’d run an extension cord from a generator to critical appliances like the refrigerator, not the TV or dryer.

“It’s those types of broad problems which do not have solutions today which we need to work on,” Johnson said. “There’s no solution today. Give us a solution that could exist in 10 to 20 years.

“At the conclusion of those three days we identified potential threat vectors, ways to maintain resiliency in imminent danger from a natural disaster, kinetic attack, or cyberattack, and then for a response, whether that be, you need to shore up and maintain your facilities for 14 days to project force, or to potentially provide support for a humanitarian action,” he said. “If you get hit by a hurricane, it’s hard to help someone else if you yourself cannot stand up.”

At the end of the exercise, participants curated about 50 ideas, each with a problem statement, areas of solution in technology, policies or people, and deliverables and resources to solve each problem.

The results will be fed into an innovation challenge or process funded by the military. Part of this will be managed by the ASU Research Enterprise, the university's applied research and development arm that specializes in delivering programs, processes and strategies to rapidly drive innovation into fully executed solutions.

Tom Lyons, director of facilities management at ASU’s Polytechnic campus, also took part in the exercise. Lyons is familiar with Marine Corps Base Hawaii, having been director of facilities there when he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2017 as a commander. He explained the significance of the work.

“With ASU being a leader in innovation, the ASU team of facilitators played an instrumental role in leading diverse teams to identify, refine and present solutions to improve the resiliency of utility systems on Marine Corps installations,” Lyons said. “Unlike other organizations that may be able to suspend or pause their mission after an unforeseen event or threat, the Marine Corps needs to be ready at all times. That is why the work we did was so important in identifying ways to improve the resiliency of the water and electrical systems on Marine Corps installations.”

“Installation Next is only the beginning,” said Lt. Col. Brandon Newell. “These solutions will continue to be refined. … The end goal is to develop pilotable solutions that will not only benefit Marine Corps Base Hawaii, but all of our installations around the globe.”

Top photo: Assistant Professor Nathan Johnson poses for a portrait at the Polytechnic campus on Oct. 25. Johnson's work focuses on solar technology and how to innovate energy resources, smart networks and off-grid solutions in the Laboratory for Energy And Power Solutions (LEAPS) lab. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News


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Do consumers need to jump on 5G? Not so fast

February 14, 2019

Coming advance in technology will improve computer-to-computer communication; despite the hype, it's not consumer-centric

5G! 5G! 5G!

It’s coming! It’s the future! It’s going to be amazing! Smart everything!

Whoa, there. Simmer down. Let's take a look at what 5G actually means.

Is 5G going to be so amazing that people will love their phones even more than they do now?

And, more importantly, exactly what does 5G mean, and why is everyone so excited about it?

To vastly simplify it — it’s not for you, the consumer. 

Sorry to burst that bubble.

“It’s primarily for machines, and it’s for machines interacting with humans,” said Martin Reisslein, an expert in communication networks and a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering at Arizona State University. “It’s really not what you think, primarily. It’s also much more than what you think.”

One problem is the telecom companies are telling tall tales like a bunch of cowboys around a campfire. It’s so bad Sprint filed a lawsuit against AT&T earlier this month, on the grounds that AT&T is claiming its 5G services are more technologically advanced. So one company is saying its unicorn is better than the other’s unicorn.

What 5G will enable is a decrease in latency. It’s the time interval between stimulation and response.

“It’s not about bringing the bit rate or the throughput up,” Reisslein said. “The more important thing is to bring down the latencies. … It’s not about the number they say you get in the Qwest or Cox ads — (like) ‘lightning-fast Internet!’”

Pings measure the round-trip time for messages sent from the originating host to a destination computer that are echoed back to the source.

“Go home and do a ping and you will see it’s hundreds of milliseconds,” Reisslein said. “The goal for 5G is to bring us down to one millisecond or less.”

The tech we use now is just fine for human-to-human interaction.

“A fringe population will benefit: gamers that are playing games where each millisecond matters,” Reisslein said. “Those people will see a difference. For us ordinary folks, it will not make a difference in our consumer behavior, but it will make a difference in the way new technologies are enabled.”

Autonomous vehicles will need 5G, for instance.

“If you think of a street crossing and you’re going down at 45-50 miles an hour, you have to have very close, tight interactions,” Reisslein said. “There is no time to spare for interactions. That is what 5G is about.”

So, 5G will be used by a lot of things that haven’t arrived yet. The flying cars that are set to appear in the 2020s will use 5G. So will smart cities, and other cyberphysical systems with brand-new dimensions — basically anything where you can’t afford any kind of a lag. Machine-human interactions like remote surgery and robotic prostheses will require 5G.

“We are thinking of things that require lightning-fast millisecond reactions,” Reisslein said. 

5G will make the internet tactile, in Reisslein’s words. Like that remote surgery, or even remote piano lessons, where teacher and student are wearing gloves wired to the net.

As the internet equalized access to knowledge, Reisslein predicts 5G will equalize and democratize skills.

“What is a skill?” he said. “A skill is something that goes beyond information. It goes to movements of very fine-grained coordination in both position and timing. Think of piano playing or helping someone rehabilitate their gait. Position and time is important to teach or re-teach skills. This democratization of skills is this big kind of societal imperative related to 5G.”

So why are we being bombarded with all the hype?

Telecom companies “are envisioning that there will be a fourth or fifth industrial revolution coming where if you don’t master and learn the game of this 5G, low latency, tactile communication, you’re out,” Reisslein said. “However, once you have your self-driving Tesla or Ford or BMW or whatever at home, and you want to control it and steer it and want to have that interact with your entire communication cloud and infrastructure, you need to have an integrated system. Think of Apple. You’re either in the Apple universe or the Android universe. … If you’re not a part of this and you’re locked out, it may be very difficult to catch up later.”

For now, if your telecom company is pushing 5G on you, should you hang up on them?

“That’s what you should do,” Reisslein said.

Top photo by Pixabay

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News