“TrellisWare Technologies offers a family of software-defined Mobile Ad-hoc Network (MANET) radio products that are used in a wide range of applications,” Vice President of Wireless Systems Jeff Harris said, “almost all TrellisWare equipment is very small but gives a squad the same abilities that are available on commercial devices. They can handle messages, voice, data, video and locations. The military does not care what waveform is used, they care what applications are enabled. They do not want to carry four different devices.” TrellisWare provides an infrastructure-less network that does not need towers, Wi-Fi access points or fixed repeater stations. “It’s true MANET; it needs no infrastructure,” Harris stressed. “There is no fixed point where all the data has to [enter and exit].”
Harris acknowledged that, “there is no such thing as a Swiss Army knife in communications. But we enable certain kinds of applications based on your mission. So the mission optimizes the network, rather than the network dictating the mission.”
Harris said MANET success depends on focusing on three basic elements: waveform, input-output and the physical layer. TrellisWare can handle Ethernet or Bluetooth Wi-Fi. “And if there are new kinds of input-output, we can add interfaces.”
The solution is also highly scalable. Previously, ad-hoc networks were limited to 30 to 50 nodes, due to management issues. But TrellisWare’s approach allowed use by 215 radios in exercises in 2010. “I do not know what the ideal size is: 200, 400 or 1,000,” Harris said, “but it is good to have choices.” All TrellisWare devices are rugged and use advanced 256-bit encryption.
Harris said the military increasingly focuses on convergence of radio communication and ISR sensors. “Traditionally, they had different devices doing each, but if you can solve the network problem, you can do both on one device. Now you can use same device for voice and for pulling in sensor data.”
TrellisWare has handled convergence for individual elements, for example linking with robots and relays. “Now they are doing experiments to see how this fits in with tactics, techniques and procedures, to see where they can do this,” Harris explained.
What makes TrellisWare different? Harris said his company’s waveform, Tactical Scalable MANET, includes a very robust physical layer. The company began with signal processing in harsh environments, and looked at the data problem differently. Other firms sought more efficiency and faster data rates. TrellisWare focused on robustness that works in closed spaces. The result is a highly scalable networking layer, capable of transparently reconfiguring itself as users move around, whether on foot, in vehicles or in aircraft.