Future technology for maintenance now

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Charles Dickens
  • Airman Magazine


Firefighters zip toward the scene of an alert that a building’s temperature has risen exponentially fast. Upon arrival, the first responders notice the scene appears normal. After minutes of further investigation, maintenance professionals, who simultaneously saw that same alert, pinpoint a faulty temperature sensor and begin to replace it.

Though there was no actual fire, the fire protection team was able to respond within seconds, not minutes. In a real-world emergency, minutes are oftentimes the difference between a small repair and structural damage or even an injury and a fatality.
The broad spectrum of technologies the Air Force is currently fielding at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, is aimed at cutting down on emergency response times, improving quality of life for Airmen and reducing maintenance costs for military installations worldwide.
Following the destruction caused by Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm, in 2018, the teams involved with rebuilding Tyndall AFB have been tasked with implementing cutting-edge technology that will culminate in the creation of the ‘Installation of the Future.’

“We’re a proving ground for a lot of the things that we’re working on here,” said Col. Travis Leighton, Air Force Civil Engineer Center Natural Disaster Recovery Project Management Office chief. “Some of it may take off and find applications throughout the entire Air Force and DOD. We know that we owe data, lessons learned and all of the things that we find out about this technology to the broader Air Force and our community so that we can make wise decisions moving forward in terms of what is smart to invest in.”
One element of this innovation involves a base-wide system called the Installation Resilience Operation Center.
“The IROC is the system of systems that will allow us to take all of the smart technology, all of the sensors that are out in the field, all of the Airmen that are out monitoring things and doing good stuff and feed that back to a central location,” said Lowell Usrey, NDR PMO integration branch chief.
Initially, the IROC was submitted during an AFWERX Base of the Future initiative. This initiative proposed six challenges aimed at leveraging emergent technology to create an integrated base without compromising security.

“Every single functional career field and agency on base has their own software system they use, either for emergency response or monitoring preventative maintenance and conditions of the buildings,” said 2nd Lt. Nicholas Cap, AFCEC NDR PMO innovation element co-lead. “What IROC is doing is attempting to break down those stove pipes and bring all of those legacy sensors, data, and real-time command and control capabilities into one dashboard that can be accessed.”

This information and data is housed in a single location that can be accessed by civil engineers, first responders and commanders.

“Now they are able to look at a much more sophisticated set of dashboards to understand when equipment’s going to fail before it fails,” Usrey said. “You want to go from preventative maintenance to predictive maintenance.”
In addition to predictive maintenance, the IROC provides information for many other units to better complete the mission. This data funnels into a secure system that would allow civil engineers to monitor a building power surge, while base defenders surveil the building and ensure locked doors remain locked. Should the situation escalate, first responders already have a clear picture of the circumstances with a plan for intervention.

“It creates that single pane of glass; that single common operating picture to enhance the situational awareness for all emergency responders, and decreases the situational awareness for our adversaries,” said Maj. Jordan Criss, 325th Security Forces Squadron commander. “When seconds determine whether it means life or death for people, or for the safety and security of our nation’s most critical assets, that’s where that information is power.”
During the implementation of these new technologies, Tyndall AFB is working to incorporate previously enabled tools into the IROC as opposed to using all-new systems.

“IROC will not be rewriting software that we’ve already worked so hard to procure, it’s just integrating them together, which is saving time and money, so we don’t have to redo what we’ve done for the past decade,” Cap said. “We’re trying to find out what innovative technologies and different processes we can streamline and implement here at Tyndall so it can be an example for the rest of the Air Force as a whole.”
AFWERX had many submissions for their futurization initiative, and Tyndall AFB is testing several of them throughout the rebuilding of the installation. Part of the intent behind that has been to vet some of the projects, like the IROC, for wider dissemination.

“The IROC dashboard provides a window into all of the concerns on the installation that the commander is monitoring to make sure they can answer that call to project power; that is a universal requirement,” said Lance Marrano, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center science and technology advisor for Tyndall AFB reconstruction. “The IROC is the first of its kind that solves the challenges of bringing all that data together. It doesn’t matter if that is an Air Force installation, an Army installation, a Navy or Marine Corps installation, they all have the same sorts of infrastructure, they just have different missions in the way they go about projecting that power.”