Node field radio combines a portable ‘internet’ with satellite links

San Francisco-based tech company Somewear Labs has taken the wraps off a pocket-sized military multi-networking communication device called Node that can automatically switch between internet-like mesh radio and satellite communications.

Portable military field radios have changed a lot since they were introduced during the Second World War. Like the way that mobile phones went from portable telephones to handheld personal computers, military radios that weighed in at 5 lb (2.3 kg) were filled with radio valves and crystals, were so expensive that an army unit might have only one, and had a range of about a mile (1.6 km) have become sophisticated communications hubs carried by each soldier, connecting them to commanders who might be half a world away.

Billed as the first-of-its-kind, Node is about the size of a smartphone, weighs in at about 6.8 oz (192 g), and would be easy to mistake for an external hard drive. However, it isn’t the compactness that is the selling point but its capabilities.

Modern field radios are used increasingly to not only communicate directly to soldiers, but to link them together into a data network sharing an increasingly large stream of information. The problem is to make sure that every radio unit remains in touch with the rest of the network and that the network itself remains linked to the internet and other communication systems. The latter is a particular challenge because it often means that at least one member of a team must remain close to an infrastructure installation to maintain the connection.

Node is about the size of a smartphone
Node is about the size of a smartphone

Somewear Labs

Designed for not only military, but civilian applications, Node handles multiple data channels using its SmartBackhaul routing software to create a mesh radio network and boasts end-to-end encryption. It works by linking together individual Nodes like a miniature internet where every unit takes an active role in moving the data around and supporting the network instead of relying on a single control center. This allows the system to operate over large areas and in places like underground tunnels where conventional radios fail.

In addition, if an individual Node wanders out of range, it can automatically swap over to satellite communications. This also allows the entire mesh network to remain in contact with the wider world.

“Node was a result of years of close collaboration with our customers,” said James Kubik, CEO of Somewear Labs. “The success of our platform and features like SmartRouting across cellular and satellite demonstrated our customers’ desire for a unified experience across all of their networks. Node is a massive leap forward in unifying communications through one platform, Somewear Grid, and ensuring continuous situational awareness in any environment.”

Source: Somewear Labs

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