Soldier's handheld radio to use Linux

Engineers at ITT Aerospace Communications in Fort Wayne, Ind., and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in Washington, D.C., have decided to use a version of the popular open-source Linux operating system to run on the next generation handheld radio communications system for soldiers.

May 1st, 2001

By John McHale

SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Engineers at ITT Aerospace Communications in Fort Wayne, Ind., and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in Washington, D.C., have decided to use a version of the popular open-source Linux operating system to run on the next generation handheld radio communications system for soldiers.

The Linux version, Hard Hat Linux from MontaVista Software in Sunnyvale, will support multiple StrongARM processors in the Situational Awareness and Information Management System (SAIM), designed by experts at ITT and SRI International's Information, Telecommunications, and Automation division in Menlo Park, Calif.

SAIM is part of the DARPA-sponsored Small Unit Operations Situational Awareness (SUO-SAS) program. The SUO-SAS is an all terrain position and location that works in any number of environments without the need for an infrastructure, Kirkwood says. The system will encompass about 10,000 users and its transmissions will be undetectable, he adds. This radio will work in areas such as jungles and cities where wireless communications such as GPS do not work, Kirkwood says.

"No other vendor was willing to provide a StrongARM port, but working with MontaVista we had Hard Hat Linux up and running on our processor in the first week," says John Kirkwood, manager of marketing operations at ITT Industries Aerospace, Communications Division. "By leveraging MontaVista's embedded Linux expertise our team was able to concentrate on our core technology competence, and bring this product to market that much sooner."

Kirkwood says he cannot comment more on the choice of Linux due to contractual obligations.

"By utilizing open source, 100% pure Linux components, MontaVista was able to provide StrongARM support to ITT in record time," claims Jim Ready, chief executive officer of MontaVista. "The ITT communications project proves once again that an open source development and business model delivers COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) solutions earlier and under budget."

Hard Hat Linux provided ITT with the flexibility and support they were looking for in an operating system, says George Davis, software engineer at MontaVista. Linux is a very stable operating system with many different drivers available, he adds.

There has also been a lot of activity with Linux in handheld computers, Davis says.

One of the biggest advantages of an open-source language like Linux, is the constant innovation being done by Linux designers around the world as a labor of love, says Kristin Anderson, customer support director at MontaVista. For example Linux spread to the iPAQ handheld from Compaq so quickly because there are so many people experimenting with the operating system for fun and not just profit, she adds.

Therefore Linux improves more rapidly than if it were the proprietary domain of one company, Anderson says.

Hard Hat Linux, from MontaVista, is based entirely on the standard Linux kernel and open-source components. It is royalty-free and targeted at embedded applications, including communications infrastructure and Internet appliances.

Hard Hat Linux has a real-time scheduler, but not real-time functionality yet, Davis says. That area is still being developed, he adds.

The beta version of the SUO-SAS radio unit is expected later this year. The SUO-SAS program team, led by ITT Industries, also includes Rockwell-Collins, GTE, and the Atlantic Aerospace Electronics Corp.

For more information on Hard Hat Linux or MontaVista contact Joe Samagond by phone at 408-328-9234, by email at jsamagond@mvista.com, or on the World Wide Web at http://www.mvista.com.

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