MOD Dragon’s Den Funds Intelligent Networking Tech


The MOD’s military technology fund has invested in a new product called Bubblephone, which could be used to help troops stay in contact in Mountainous areas

The Ministry of Defence has announced that it has received its 1000th submission to a scheme designed to help with the development of new military technology, which has been compared to the BBC TV show Dragon’s Den.

The MOD said this week that its Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) is helping to put the military in touch with innovative small businesses, inventors, and academia. Around 150 proposals have been given research funding under the scheme, that was launched 18 months ago.

“Our task is to anticipate, prepare for and meet the forthcoming challenges by being highly innovative, agile and flexible in our approach to defence science and technology. We can only do this by actively seeking novel and exciting ideas and contributions from across the industry, academia and other enterprises,” said Dr Helen Almey, head of the CDE.

One project that has benefited from CDE funding is Bubblephone, based at the Innovation Centre of the University of Sussex, which was awarded £49,000 for its C-THRU technology. The MOD states that Bubblephone allows network connections to be maintained despite changes in the environment and also prioritises network traffic.

“It does this by constantly being aware of the network environment and intelligently ‘adapting’ itself to keep open the best connection. For example, if a wireless connection is lost due to mountainous terrain. C-THRU will seamlessly failover to a different network type or connection method. It also prioritises traffic so that urgent communications always get through,” the MOD states.

But while the MOD is keen to characterise the benefits of Bubblephone for helping troops in remote areas stay in touch, the company itself presents its technology as having more consumer-orientated benefits such as tackling the increasing need for bandwidth. Bubblephone states that it originally planned to build a piece of software that would join up lots of different telephone networks, but realised its software could solve problems affecting Internet traffic flow and reliability.

“If you imagine a congested road, full of traffic running through a high street,” said company managing director, Sean Curtis-Ward, “then C-THRU is the bus lane that allows essential traffic to move along the road, without obstruction. We don’t make the road wider, we just make sure that there’s always a route open regardless of how bad the traffic is.”

In September, BT announced that it is testing technology that uses “bonding” to extend the range and speed of broadband, to help deliver the government’s Digital Britain target of 2Mbps for every home in Britain.

In July, the MOD announced that it had spent £23m on a five-year air surveillance system from IBM. The MOD has also invested in smart metering technology from IT services company Logica to install data monitoring technology in its buildings and help drive down the £300m it spends on energy every year.

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