Office of Naval Research (ONR) officials announced a new program Oct. 22 to optimize tactical handheld technology for quick decision-making in the field.

The Exchange of Actionable Information at the Tactical Edge (EAITE) program, designed to sift through data from multiple sources for faster analysis, is among more than a dozen Future Naval Capability (FNC) programs kicking off in fiscal year 2014.

ONR Director of Transition Dr. Thomas Killion explained the need for the program—and how it benefits both the U.S. Navy and industry—during an FNC overview at the 2012 ONR Naval Science & Technology Partnership Conference.

"EAITE gives the U.S. Navy a means to build on industry advances in mobile technology and cloud computing to develop and ultimately transition a cutting-edge product to acquisition managers and ultimately the warfighter," Killion said.

Currently, information feeds from sensors and other assets flow into command centers, where intelligence analysts make sense of the material before it is shipped down to lower echelon troops. This process can take hours or even days. Complicating the situation, access to many more data sources and advanced analytic technology could threaten Marines with information overload.

EAITE aims to cut that delivery time down to minutes or even seconds by using automation to sift through data and send only the most relevant information to Marines operating handheld devices, said John Moniz, C4 program officer in ONR's Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department.

"We want to figure out what we can automate and how we go about automating it so we can take all of these various sources of data and create something that can immediately be used by the end-user," Moniz said.

Under EAITE, researchers will develop firmware and software to distill imagery and information from unmanned aircraft feeds and other sources, efficiently move it over a tactical network and present it in an immediately understandable form to decision-makers on the battlefield.

Trimming the so-called "data to decisions" timeline down to minutes would be a drastic improvement, but researchers know there are situations when Marines need critical information even sooner.

"We would like to have some sort of warning that tells them when something that could put them in danger is getting close, and we need to get that to them in seconds," Moniz said.

In addition to EAITE, the new crop of FY14 FNC initiatives includes: a gel-wound cover for managing blast injuries in forward locations; real-time detection and assessment of traumatic brain injury in theater; an undersea weapon system that can autonomously neutralize surface and subsurface threats in shallow and intermediate waters; and surveillance tools for unmanned aircraft that can autonomously detect improvised explosive device precursors and hidden targets.

In general, the FNC program's goal is to match solutions with acquisition requirements to close warfighting gaps within five years.

A complete listing of the FNCs, along with the 2012 FNC Guidebook, is available online at http://www.onr.navy.mil/Science-Technology/Directorates/Transition/Future-Naval-Capabilities-FNC.aspx.

A new study by Northwestern University researchers has revealed that public DNS services could actually slow down users' web-surfing experience. As a result, researchers have developed a solution to help avoid such an impact: a tool called namehelp that could speed web performance by 40 percent.

Through a large-scale study involving more than 10,000 hosts across nearly 100 countries, Fabián Bustamante, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and his team found that one cause of slow web performance is a growing trend toward public Domain Name Systems (DNS), a form of database that translates Internet domain and host names into Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

DNS services play a vital role in the Internet: every time a user visits a website, chats with friends, or sends email, his computer performs DNS look-ups before setting up a connection. Complex web pages often require multiple DNS look-ups before they start loading, so users' computers may perform hundreds of DNS look-ups a day. Most users are unaware of DNS, since Internet Service Providers (ISP) typically offer the service transparently.

Over the last few years, companies such as Google, OpenDNS, and Norton DNS have begun offering "public" DNS services. While "private" DNS services, such as those offered by ISPs, may be misconfigured, respond slowly to queries, and go down more often, public DNS services offer increased security and privacy, and quicker resolution time. The arrangement is also beneficial for public DNS providers, who gain access to information about users' web habits.

Bustamante and his team found that while using public DNS services may provide many benefits, users' web performance can suffer due to the hidden interaction of DNS with Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), another useful and equally transparent service in the web.

CDNs help performance by offering exact replicas of website content in hundreds or thousands of computer servers around the world; when a user types in a web address, he is directed to the copy geographically closest to him. Most popular websites – more than 70 percent of the top 1,000 most popular sites, according to the Northwestern study – rely on CDNs to deliver their content quickly to users around the world.

But researchers found that using public DNS services can result in bad redirections, sending users to content from CDN replicas that are three times farther away than necessary.

Public DNS and CDN services are working to address the problem, but current users are left with two mediocre options – bad web performance through public DNS services or bad security and privacy support through private DNS services.

Now Bustamante and his group have developed a tool called namehelp that may let users have their cake and eat it, too – by using public DNS services without compromising on web performance.

namehelp runs personalized benchmarks in the background, from within users' computers, to determine their optimal DNS configuration and improve their web experience by helping sites load faster. If it finds that a user is receiving less than optimal web performance, namehelp automatically fixes it by cleverly interacting with DNS services and CDNs to ensure the user gets his content from the nearest possible copy.

You can download namehelp today from: http://aqualab.cs.northwestern.edu/projects/namehelp.

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