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DARPA? Open Source? Yes, Of Course
Posted February 6, 2014
DARPA? Open Source? Yes, Of Course
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By Jennifer LeClaire. Updated February 6, 2014 1:51PM

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DARPA, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is making headlines on two fronts this week, creating an Open Catalog and partnering with IBM on a self-destructing chip.

First, in response to the R&D community's requests for the availability of research results, the group has created the DARPA Open Catalog, a place that organizes and shares results in the form of software, publications, data and experimental details.

"Making our open-source catalog available increases the number of experts who can help quickly develop relevant software for the government," said Chris White, DARPA program manager. "Our hope is that the computer science community will test and evaluate elements of our software and afterward adopt them as either standalone offerings or as components of their products."

What's Really Online?

Many Department of Defense and government research efforts and software procurements contain publicly releasable elements, including open-source software. The nature of open-source software lends itself to collaboration where communities of developers augment initial products, build on each other's expertise, enable transparency for performance evaluation, and identify software vulnerabilities. DARPA has an open-source strategy for areas of work including big data to help increase the impact of government investments in building a flexible technology base.

The DARPA Open Catalog's initial offerings include software toolkits and peer-reviewed publications from the XDATA program in the agency's Information Innovation Office (I2O). According to DARPA, the partially funded toolkits are designed to encourage flexible development of software that may enable users of targeted defense applications to process large volumes of data in a timely manner to meet their mission requirements.

Ultimately, DARPA is interested in building communities around government-funded software and research. If the R&D community shows sufficient interest, DARPA said it would continue to make available information generated by its programs, including software, publications, data and experimental results. Future updates are scheduled to include components from other I2O programs such as Broad Operational Language Translation and Visual Media Reasoning.

A Shattering Chip

DARPA also has awarded IBM a $3.4 million deal for the Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program. VAPR seeks electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner. DARPA explained, "These transient electronics should have performance comparable to commercial-off-the-shelf electronics, but with limited device persistence that can be programmed, adjusted in real-time, triggered, and/or be sensitive to the deployment environment."

IBM said its plan is to utilize the property of strained glass substrates to shatter as the driving force to reduce attached CMOS chips into Si and SiO2 powder.

"A trigger, such as a fuse or a reactive metal layer will be used to initiate shattering, in at least one location, on the glass substrate. An external RF signal will be required for this process to be initiated. IBM will explore various schemes to enhance glass shattering.

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