Security concerns have traditionally prevented the use of wireless technology for secret or other classified information.
According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Energy’s research lab at Savannah River Site, the development of the technology reached a milestone recently with the NSA’s approval of prototype hardware for use in certain classified communications.
Work on the network design began four years ago and could eventually be used by Department of Energy facilities, other federal agencies and critical manufacturing sites, the lab said.
The hardware includes components of a prototype standalone wireless radiation air-monitoring system designed by the lab for use in nuclear facilities.
The system combines radiation sensing with an ultra-secure short range wireless network from General Dynamics, which the lab contracted to develop components for the wireless system. While the radiation sensor is specific to nuclear facilities, the short range wireless sensor network is adaptable.
Radiation monitoring in nuclear facilities is essential for safely, but the cost of running cables in sensitive areas can reach $2,000 per foot. The wireless system, according to lab officials, could someday help save millions of dollars.
The new approach uses “Suite B Cryptography,” which the NSA has embraced as part of a strategy to improve information sharing within the United States and with coalition partners. It can be used to protect classified U.S. government information up to the “secret” level.
The second phase of the project will develop an improved production-ready wireless sensor interface module and is expected to start in fiscal year 2013.