Technical note | Mobile Agents for Battlespace Information Exchange
This report provides an overview of Mobile Agent (MA) technology which is especially suited for use in networks with ad-hoc connectivity and fluid topology. This is still very much the case in Defence operations where consumer-level infrastructure is not available. The report provides an overview of MA characteristics and follows with a description of the implementation architecture of a specific MA framework. It then proposes their relevance in application to battlespace information exchange.
An agent is an abstraction, or a concept that provides a convenient and powerful way to describe a complex software entity that is capable of autonomously accomplishing tasks on behalf of its owner. More specifically, a Mobile Agent (MA) is an agent which is able to migrate (move) from one computer to another and to continue its execution on the destination computer. MA technology was invented in a time when internet connectivity was not constantly available. The general use case for using an MA is to instantiate one, send it out to the world in order to achieve something and then disconnect from the network. The MA returns with the results when the user reconnects sometime in the future.
The research described in this report has been performed because in the current Australian battlespace there is no fixed infrastructure for constant network connectivity. Communication is typically ad-hoc, dropping in and out and with limited bandwidth. As a result, many critical tasks are still performed on the radio with no computer support. Other than a satellite link (which is only available to very few platforms) there is only one other (non-voice) way for military aircraft to communicate externally, a Tactical Data Link (TDL). TDLs have been around for many years and use standards to provide communication between platforms via radio waves.
This report proposes that MA technology could provide a means to introduce new information exchange paradigms and computer automation opportunities in the battlespace. It is proposed that MAs could be used to traverse over a TDL in order to achieve specific tasks like mission negotiation and remote data processing. Future directions of this work would initially involve development (or enhancement) of a MA context in order to make it able to interoperate with a TDL gateway. When this capability is available it will become possible to conduct experimentation to identify how MAs would be used to achieve the scenarios described in this report and/or other scenarios identified in consultation with ADF stakeholders.