By Sherry DiBari

Virginia Tech-Applied Research Corporation and its partnering team of industry and Commonwealth Cyber Initiative academic institutions, including Old Dominion University, were granted a $13 million Department of Defense contract to develop a 5G-enabled "smart warehouse" at the Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) in Albany, Georgia.

"We were competing with industry teams who have several years of experience and expertise in this field," said Sachin Shetty, who holds dual appointments as executive director of the Center for Secure & Intelligent Critical Systems at ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) and associate professor in the Department of Computational Modeling and Simulation Engineering. "This was an incredible win for us."

"This is a great example of the leadership role that ODU and Dr. Shetty have taken in making the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative a success," said Morris Foster, Old Dominion's vice president of research.

"We are proud to be playing a key role in this important project," ODU President John R. Broderick said. "It illustrates how our commitment to the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative is making an impact not just in Virginia, but on a national level as well."

Shetty will provide technical supervision of the project including design, development, integration and testing. Chunsheng Xin, a professor in ODU's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will also contribute.

ODU will leverage the CCI 5G Testbed managed by the CCI hub at Virginia Tech. "They will provide us the ability to test our 5G enhancements in lab settings before it is deployed at the warehouse in Albany," Shetty said.

The CCI hub funded the program management that Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation (VT-ARC) provided to put together the proposal. Researchers from Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia, George Mason University and four companies - IAI, PerspectaLabs, Keysight and B3 Advanced Communications - are also involved in the project.

"The whole point of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative is to foster innovative research collaborations between faculty from Virginia's higher education institutions. It is recognized that we can do far more by working together," said Brian Payne, ODU's vice provost for academic affairs and director of the Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation. "In this case, researchers leveraged their existing strengths to show how they could address a very real current and future challenge. It's easy to conclude that this project would not have been funded but for the existence of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative."

A smart warehouse automates many of its operations with interconnected technologies that need to work together to increase productivity and efficiency of the warehouse, enhance the effectiveness of human workers and reduce errors.

Managing warehouses using 5G and IoT technologies can profoundly change logistics management.

An example is the use of 5G to bridge mobile communications like LTM or 4G for outdoors with indoor technology like WiFi. "This can be especially relevant for monitoring an outbound order that includes goods in-transit that have not yet been received at the warehouse," Shetty said.

"Our 5G network enhancement will provide the blueprint for other military installations on developing a low power, low latency and resilient 5G network to support their mission."

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