Transfer data to multiple nodes challenge

About NSTIx OpTech Co-Creation

The National Security Technology and Innovation Exchange (NSTIx) is a government-led science, technology and innovation partnership that enables coherent and agile delivery of innovative national security outcomes through a co-ordinated and systematic approach to research and capability development.

NSTIx has established a government-led network of themed Co-Creation Spaces (CCS). The CCS’ combine the respective power of specialist public and private sector partners in research, capability development and end user requirements. This supports the development of effective, user-driven technology at pace in areas that are critical to national security. For more information, please see the ‘NSTIx Leaflet’ in digital form.

The OpTech Co-Creation Space (OCCS) has engaged with a network of key Community Collaborators, to accelerate and leverage access to their existing networks of industry and academic Solution Providers.

By responding to this Challenge (details provided in ‘UK Solution Provider Proposals – ‘our ask’ section) and participating in Co-Creation there is an exciting opportunity for collaboration between National Security, Community Collaborators and Solution Providers.


National Security often deploy sensor nodes that do a variety of functions to collect data in uncontrolled environments, such as to provide surveillance information in a difficult environment. The data collected could range from audio, video, radio-frequency, and countless other forms. Historically, a sensor node would be deployed, collect data as a single entity, and then be interpreted by a human either in real-time or at a later date.

However, with the rise of cheap low equity sensor nodes, there is the potential to deploy many more sensors in much more complex operational environments to gather significantly more data. Using the historical ways to collect data does not scale as it now becomes way too complex for a human to manage in the same way. By deploying ever increasing sensor node meshes, there is an opportunity to build intelligence into this system, with this Challenge focused on the secure transport of data within the sensor node mesh.

A related field that could be used for inspiration is a “smart” office environment, citing a study by Deniz Tuzcuoğlu et al. (2022). “Smart” offices of the future will look at occupancy usage, use sensor data to provide thermal comfort for the occupants, collect behavioural data to avoid occupational stress, adjust lighting and acoustics autonomously depending on the user preferences at that moment in time. This complex system could be used to increase the user experience, leading to a happier and more productive work force. It is clear however with this complexity in a sensor node mesh, the data collected and processed, and the autonomous adjusting of the physical environment (e.g. thermostat change) that there needs some intelligence in the system in both the compute side but also the communication within the sensor node mesh.

The Challenge

To be able to maximise an intelligent sensor node mesh, this Challenge focuses on the communication and transport of data between the nodes. At present, when considering nodes used for surveillance, the current processes of a human monitoring a single node does not scale when aiming to use multiple nodes at varying locations. Therefore, to enable automation and efficient communication between multiple nodes, there is development required on the transport of data between the nodes.

At the centre of this gap is scalability, reliability, self-healing, interoperability between a variety of devices, raw data collection flows, device redundancy and mesh issues at scale.

This Challenge offers an indicative budget of £60k for a single Solution Provider, budget increases will be considered for consortiums that form. The proposal should focus on aiding our understanding of the technology landscape by reporting on existing methods and techniques that could be pivoted or used for our use case. We would also like to work towards working prototype(s) or demonstrations of various technologies and will accept a relatively low TRL. The question of whether a paper study or demonstrator make up the essence of the delivery will be the choice of the pitch supplier but the technical knowledge and quality deliverable is key.

A non-exhaustive list of considerations to be made are:

· Sensors will be low equity and commercially off the shelf. The data transported must be treated as agnostic, as it could be a blend of different sensors.

· The data rates will be low and infrequent.

· Must work over a wide meshed network, perhaps tens of sensors and along a distance of a medium sized office block.

· The transport of data must not be reliant on existing communication infrastructure.

· There must be a strong focus on low Size, Weight and Power (SWaP).

· The transport of data must be reliable, secure and have a strong focus on privacy.

· The sensor and back-end processing is out of scope for this Challenge, therefore the communication system will be part of a larger end to end system.

· The end users are unlikely to be technical so there must be minimal training to operate.

· The meshed nodes must have a degree of autonomy and self-healing.

· Bluetooth technology will be considered if presented in an appropriate and unique context, included as part of the delivery solution.

This Challenge will be run over a period of up to 12 weeks in total. As a Solution Provider, you will be part of an agile team working collaboratively with the Project Sponsor and Agile Delivery Manager. We expect the 12-week funding period to test, iterate and prove a concept.

We would also encourage suppliers to consider a phase 2 of this Challenge, how would the findings of this phase 1 be moved into a robust demonstration and ultimately into a product? Consider future planning of how long that may take and how much it may cost.

A Solution Provider may be a single academic, a micro-SME or a corporate giant. All proposals will be marked on their merit listed under Evaluation Criteria.

Proposals are requested by the deadline of Friday 22/09/23

Commercial Consideration

An agile approach over the 12 week period is preferred, i.e. with sprints designed to work with the National Security and Defence community to iteratively define the solution. We have an indicative budget of £60k for a single Solution Provider, budget increases will be considered for consortiums.

Further details

You can find Frequently Asked Questions and Answers (FAQ) here.

Recording of the Briefing Call

Key dates and timelines

14 August

Challenge goes live and open for submissions.

29 August

All parties will be invited to an open Briefing Call at 10 – 11am via MS Teams which can be found here (this will take you to the call scheduled on August 29th).

11 September

Frequently Asked Questions released– responses (FAQ): All enquiries from the Briefing Call will be collated, and responses sent to all parties in an FAQ document by close of business.

22 September

The deadline for proposals to be submitted is close of business. Please include the title of the Challenge ‘Transfer data to multiple nodes’ in your email. Please note that shortlisted Collaborators may be invited to pitch prior to contract award.

Week commencing 02 October

The OCCS Challenge Team aims to select a shortlist of successful proposals by this date. All applicants will be provided with written feedback via the Community Collaborator.

12 October

The OCCS Challenge Team pitch day. An option to attend face to face or online will be made. Please hold in your diary.