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Look through the eyes of TNO and discover how we contribute to a brighter future by protecting personnel and material. But how is it done — the art of disappearing? And how can we use invisibility to protect ourselves?
One such way is by helping our armed forces to merge with their environment so that they can work unnoticed. Another is by minimising the detection of military vehicles, thus reducing their chance of being attacked. But TNO is also working toward a safer society in ‘ordinary life’ using far-reaching cyber security, lightning-fast laser-satellite communication, and underwater sensors, for example. Together with our partners, we’re ensuring the continued development and improvement of new camouflage techniques and technological innovations.
Drones and other technologies are making it increasingly challenging for our Dutch soldiers to conduct their work without being noticed. As a strategic partner of the Netherlands’ Ministry of Defence, TNO is constantly looking for ways to minimise the visibility of our soldiers. Camouflage and disappearing techniques are two of TNO’s areas of expertise. Different terrains and circumstances (woodland, desert, snow) all require their own camouflage pattern. TNO has developed different camouflage patterns in collaboration with Defence.
When we speak of military platforms becoming invisible, we’re not just referring to what you can or can’t see with the naked eye. Ships and vehicles transmit a specific signature, an acoustic or magnetic mark through which they can be detected (by mines, for example). Modern mines respond to that signature and can even determine when they detonate. TNO is researching how to reduce the signature of military platforms to minimise the threat of mines.
TNO’s close collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Navy and Thales has made the Netherlands a global leader in the development of innovative sensor and information systems, both necessary to properly and safely coordinate the tremendous amount of activity on our North Sea. Its seabed is covered with thousands of kilometres of crucial infrastructure, such as cables and pipelines for energy and communication. You can also find shipwrecks and ammunition from the past there. Knowing where they are located is crucial for the safety of all that movement at sea. TNO is developing unique technology for new sensors that are small enough to equip drones with their own radar system. Underwater drones must also be able to communicate when conducting inspections. TNO has developed encrypted underwater Wi-Fi, sometimes with a reach of several kilometres.
Smart fridges, intelligent thermostats, remote-control cars—they all need internet and more data. Existing data solutions are becoming exhausted. High time for new technologies! Able to transfer a terabit of information per second to any location on the planet, laser-satellite communication is ten times faster than our current modes of communication. To make it even more concrete, its speed is the equivalent of simultaneously streaming 200,000 Netflix films in HD quality. Perhaps more importantly, its invisible mode of communication is almost impossible to hack. The laser signals connect satellites with each other and to ground stations. These receiving stations can also be built inside aircrafts for internet in the sky. TNO is specialised in the optical part of the satellite. Highly precise mechanisms, specialised mirrors, and photonics components for future advanced terminals are also being developed by our experts.
The invisible world of data is vulnerable. Cryptography is responsible for protecting data, a job it performs with great success. Even the fastest computers in the world would need hundreds to millions of years to decrypt encrypted information. This might change with the introduction of quantum computers, however. Although it will be some time before a quantum computer is developed that can crack cryptography, we need to be prepared. TNO has a wealth of expertise in quantum-safe cryptography and is in the process of developing methods that will ensure the safety of data being communicated or saved now, even after the arrival of the quantum computer.