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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

AI and Networks Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (AINet ANTX) - Networks Prize Challenge

Project Overmatch is the Department of Navy (DON) priority initiative to modernize Naval warfighting networks.

Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR)

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $100,000
Type of Challenge: Software and apps, Ideas, Technology demonstration and hardware, Analytics, visualizations, algorithms, Scientific
Partner Agencies | Federal: Naval Information Warfare Centers Pacific and Atlantic
Submission Start: 06/02/2021 00:00 AM ET
Submission End: 07/27/2021 03:00 PM ET

IMPORTANT UPDATES:

Description

Project Overmatch has established methods, tools, and integrated rapid innovation laboratory (iRIL) environments for the continuous exploration of emerging technologies that will advance the reach, capacity, and resiliency of maritime tactical network of networks. The NetANTX Challenge, hereinafter referred to as the “Challenge”, is focused on quickly identifying operationally relevant innovations and emerging networking technologies, which are critical to retaining and progressing Naval overmatch in the maritime domain. Selected participants will be invited to demonstrate candidate technologies in an integrated rapid innovation laboratory (iRIL), which is a simulation-based environment (SBE) that will employ tactically-relevant scenarios in operationally-relevant conditions. The iRIL and assessment criteria will focus on technologies that contribute specifically to the Open Systems Interconnection model (OSI model) network layer or layer 3. The OSI model defines the functionality of the network layer as structuring and managing multi-node network, including addressing, routing, and traffic engineering (https://www.itu.int/rec/T-REC-X.220-198811-S/en). Solutions are expected to run on a Linux (Centos7) platform, with potentially multiple Ethernet interfaces. Solutions are expected to control how application packets are forwarded, queued or dropped on a per-packet or per-flow basis. Technologies that operate above layer 3 (e.g. Application layer routing protcols), but manipulate the routing tables or capture and redirect traffic to interfaces are within scope. Solutions that leverage Software Defined Networking (SDN) technologies or Mobile Ad-hoc Networking (MANET) solutions are both encouraged.

Future prize challenges will focus on the other OSI layers (application through physical layers) and/or technology areas which include, but are not limited to: modern software development pipelines and infrastructure, underlying data architectures, and rapid deployment of automation, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) into tactical applications both afloat and ashore.

Problem Statement

Consider a scenario where the Naval Force is operating in a highly contested environment and most communication paths are denied. In this scenario, only a few modes and links that operate at low kilobit per second data rates and below. Such a network is characterized by:

  • sparsely connected nodes
  • multi-hop needed to support end-to-end application flows
  • low kilobit per second data rate links
  • dynamic and unpredictable connectivity based on locations and radio frequency (RF) channel effects
  • network demand exceeds available network resources

Each of the above conditions poses a significant challenge to network operation. Yet, the Navy must operate under the combined effects of all the above conditions. The Networks Prize Challenge, hereinafter referred to as the “Challenge”, seeks innovative technologies that will maximize the utility of this very limited network, specifically by enabling efficient, low-overhead routing of application packets.

Key Dates

  • Challenge Registration and Submissions Opens: June 2021
  • Virtual Q&A Session with prospective participants: June 30, 2021
  • White Paper/Quad Chart Deadline: July 27, 2021
  • Review/ Down-selection Boards: August 10 - August 12, 2021
  • Announce invited AINet ANTX Challenge participants: August 24, 2021
  • Virtual Q/A Session for participants: August 31st, 2021
  • iRIL Integration Workshop: September 14, 2021
  • Networking Technology Submission: October 22, 2021
  • NetAI ANTX (Presentation/Demonstration): November 4, 2021
  • Prize Challenge Board Deliberations: November 5, 2021
  • Announce Prize Challenge Winners: November 10, 2021

Prizes

Total Cash Prize Pool

$100,000

Prize Breakdown

  • $75,000 First Prize
  • $25,000 Second Prize

Rules

General

Each participant (individual participant, team of participants, commercial, Government, or academic entity) may submit one entry in response to this challenge. Team entries or commercial entity entries must have an individual identified as the primary point of contact and prize recipient. By submitting an entry, a participant authorizes his or her name and organization to be released to the media if the participant wins the prize.

The entry submission package must include:

  • white paper that clearly describes the networking technology to be considered
  • quad chart where all content such as text, pictures, diagrams, etc. are provided pre-approved for public release

In order for an entry to be considered, a white paper must be submitted no later than July 27, 2021, in accordance with the below submission guidelines.

Each entry will be initially assessed utilizing the criteria set forth under the section, Assessment Criteria – Networks Prize Challenge Invitations. Following initial assessment, Participants may be invited to advance to the second assessment in the Challenge.

If invited to advance, participants will be required to submit the networking technology described in the initial white paper and quad chart no later than October 22, 2021. The networking technology will be assessed per Assessment Criteria – Networks Prize Challenge during presentation and demonstration November 4, 2021.

In the event the submission package does not include the sufficient level of detail to assess technical approach, or other, the Government team may request clarification throughout the evaluation.

Instructions for classified submissions may be requested via NetAntx@niwc.navy.mil.

White Paper Submission Guidelines:

White papers should provide an overview of the proposed networking technology, technical approach (e.g. architecture, deployment overview, algorithm descriptions, model descriptions, performance requirements, endpoint footprint, existing results, etc.), the benefits and novelty of the approach within the context of existing academic and commercially available technologies, and the dependencies necessary (e.g. data, platform, network connectivity, etc.) to operate the proposed technology. White papers must be no more than six pages in length and in conformance with the white paper submission instructions provided in Appendix A. All white papers must be submitted via email to: NetANTX@niwc.navy.mil by 1500 EST/1200 PST July 27, 2021.

Where appropriate, use protective markings such as “Do Not Publicly Release – Trade Secret” or “Do Not Publicly Release – Confidential Proprietary Business Information” in the header or footer of the white paper.

Quad Chart Submission Guidelines:

Quad charts shall be submitted in accordance with the quad chart template provided as Appendix B with all content (text, graphics, pictures, etc.) pre-approved for public release. The single slide quad-chart must be submitted in Microsoft PowerPoint version 16.0 or greater, which is Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Office 2019, and Microsoft Office 365. The file extension can be in either in .PPT or .PPTX. Quad charts must be attached to the same email when white papers are submitted by 1500 EST/1200 PST July 27, 2021. The quad chart shall include a “Distribution A: Approved for Public release” marking in the footer. The submitted file should have the name format “ORGANIZATIONNAME_QUADCHART(.PPT or .PPTX)”. The quad-chart should be a concise summary of the full proposal that can be displayed in a single slide. The Challenge team may use portions of the submitted content for event planning, reports, and for external communication materials.

Networking Technology submissions will include:

Upon selection, invited participants will be provided a simulation-based environment (SBE) to integrate their proposed network technology.

Networking Technology submissions will include:

  • The virtual machine (VM) image with the provided SBE
    • The networking technology should be installed, along with all dependencies, in designated Linux containers
    • The VM image should be in Open Virtualization Appliance (OVA) format.
  • Documentation describing how to run the technology within the SBE VM.
    • Ease of use, through scripts or user interface, is highly encouraged.

Q&A sessions and an iRIL integration workshop will be held throughout the Challenge where additional details will be provided that describe the SBE, network architecture, relevant scenarios, and operationally relevant conditions. This announcement will be updated with specifics, but questions regarding the challenge must be submitted via email NetANTX@niwc.navy.mil no later than 5 days prior to the virtual event.

Selected participants will be invited to participate in an iRiL Integration Workshop where additional details will be provided to describe the network architecture, relevant scenarios, and operationally-relevant conditions will be made available to participants

Instructions on how to submit networking technology submissions will be provided upon selection.

Questions submitted after the deadline may not be addressed.

Eligibility

The Challenge is open to individual participants, teams of participants, and commercial, Government, and academic entities. Entities must be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the U.S. Individual participants and all members of teams of participants must all be U.S. citizens or U.S. Permanent Residents and be 18 years or older as of July 27, 2021. All participants (entities or individuals) must have a Social Security Number (SSN), Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), or Employer Identification Number (EIN) in order to receive a prize. Eligibility is subject to verification before any prize is awarded.

Submissions from Federal Government employees or NAVWAR support contractors will be evaluated but are not eligible to receive the cash award associated with the Challenge.

Violation of the rules contained herein or intentional or consistent activity that undermines the spirit of the challenge may result in disqualification. The challenge is void wherever restricted or prohibited by law.

Terms & Conditions

These terms and conditions apply to all participants in the Challenge.

Agreement to Terms:

The participant agrees to comply with and be bound by the Challenge Rules (“the Rules”) as well as the Terms and Conditions contained herein. The participant also agrees that the decisions of the Government, in connection with all matters relating to the Challenge are binding and final.

Data Rights:

NAVWAR does not require that participants relinquish or otherwise grant license rights to intellectual property developed or delivered under the challenge.

NAVWAR does require sufficient data rights/intellectual property rights to use, release, display, and disclose the white paper, quad chart, supporting materials, and the model, but only to the assessment team members, and only for purposes of evaluating the participant submissions. The assessment team does not plan to retain entries after the challenge is completed. It does plan to retain data, aggregate performance statistics, and integration and compatibility factors resulting from the assessment of those entries for further analysis. By accepting these terms and conditions, the participant consents to the use of data submitted to the assessment team for these purposes.

NAVWAR may contact participants, at no additional cost to the Government, to discuss the means and methods used in solving the Challenge. Such contact does not imply any sort of contractual commitment with the participant.

Agreements:

NAVWAR may award, pursuant to Title 10 U.S.C. § 2371b, a follow-on prototype agreement or transaction, or Limited Procurement for Experimentation Title 10 U.S.C. § 2373 to one or more participants who successfully demonstrate an operationally relevant networking technology during the Challenge. If the selected technologies are not yet mature enough for prototype awards, other agreements such as Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) may be utilized. This Challenge, however, does not in any way obligate NAVWAR to procure any of the items within the scope of this challenge from the winners. Tax treatment of prizes will be handled in accordance with U.S. Internal Revenue Service guidelines. The winner must provide a U.S. TIN (e.g., SSN or EIN) to receive the cash prize.

This challenge does not replace or supersede any other written contracts and/or written challenges that the participant has or will have with the Government, which may require delivery of any materials the participant is submitting herein for this challenge effort.

Publication:

Participants agree to confer, consult, and acquire the consent of the Government prior to the publication or presentation of any Challenge materials, materials associated with the Challenge, or data derived from the Challenge, to assure that no PROPRIETARY INFORMATION or RESTRICTED ACCESS INFORMATION is released, patent rights are protected, ensure accuracy, and that no claims are made on behalf of the Government. Publication and/or presentation may be delayed for a reasonable time to afford needed protection.

Costs:

The Government is not responsible for any costs incurred by challenge participants, to include the development of white papers, quad charts, presentation materials, the model, travel, technology, demonstrations, iRIL integration, and any other associated costs. All costs incurred throughout the execution of the Challenge are the responsibility of the participants.

Results of the Challenge:

Winners will be announced at the conclusion of the Challenge event. NAVWAR will also announce the winners on the Challenge.gov website, the NAVWAR LinkedIN page, media outlets, and social media channels.

Release of Claims:

The participant agrees to release and forever discharge any and all manner of claims, equitable adjustments, actions, suits, debts, appeals, and all other obligations of any kind, whether past or present, known or unknown, that have or may arise from, are related to or are in connection with, directly or indirectly, this challenge or the participant’s submission.

Compliance with Laws:

The participant agrees to follow and comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws, regulations and policies.

Governing Law:

This challenge is subject to all applicable federal laws and regulations. ALL CLAIMS ARISING OUT OF OR RELATING TO THESE TERMS WILL BE GOVERNED BY THE FEDERAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Other:

For events throughout the execution of the Challenge, the Government will provide qualified experts to evaluate the submissions, access to virtual collaboration and simulation environments, access to approved laboratories, overall event planning, and coordination of information assurance services. Two assessments will be conducted throughout the Challenge. White paper submissions will be assessed, prior to invitation to participate in the Challenge which will require participants to develop and integrate their network technologies into the iRIL environment.

Because of the number of anticipated challenge entries, NAVWAR cannot and will not make determinations on whether or not third-party materials in the challenge submissions have protectable intellectual property interests. By participating in this challenge, each participant (whether participating individually, as a team, or as a commercial entity) warrants and assures the Government that any data used for the purpose of submitting an entry for this challenge, were obtained legally and through authorized access to such data. By entering the challenge and submitting the challenge materials, the participant agrees to indemnify and hold the Government harmless against any claim, loss or risk of loss for patent or copyright infringement with respect to such third-party interests.

NAVWAR may update the terms of the challenge from time to time without notice. Participants are strongly encouraged to check the website frequently.

If any provision of this challenge is held to be invalid or unenforceable under applicable federal law, it will not affect the validity or enforceability of the remainder of the terms and conditions of this challenge.

Judging Criteria

Assessment Criteria and Simulation Environment

We seek innovative technologies to optimize networks operating in dynamic, low-capacity environments. This challenge focuses on low overhead routing protocols. Participants should generalize their approaches since all technologies will be tested and evaluated beyond the SBE, in higher fidelity and operationally relevant environments. At a minimum, the routing protocol should support User Datagram Protocol (UDP) unicast flows and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) flows. Support for UDP multicast is desired, but not necessary for this challenge. In the following sections we describe the assessment criteria and the provided SBE.

Assessment Criteria – Networks Prize Challenge Invitations

Conforming white paper and quad chart submissions will be evaluated by a panel of qualified networking experts using the following criteria which is in descending order of importance:

  • Operational impact of the technology/engineering innovation in the intended mission scenarios and operational environment
  • Estimated technical performance (weighted network goodput; network overhead; end-to-end network latency) of the technology/engineering innovation
  • Integration complexity of the technology/engineering innovation
  • Technical maturity of the technology/engineering innovation

When conducting the assessment, the Government reserves the right to take other significant factors as required into consideration, such as:

  • Limitations to use due to Intellectual Property ownership
  • Ease of fielding the technology in existing legacy Naval platforms (e.g. solution that requires many large software dependencies or are require significant compute/memory resources, or that run on very specific hardware architectures would be viewed less favorably).
  • Required out-of-band information needed for the networking technology to operate

Based on this initial assessment of the white papers and quad charts, participants will be invited to participate in the Challenge. Selected participants will be notified via email communication and will receive invitations to the Challenge question and answer (Q&A) Sessions and iRIL Integration Workshops.

Assessment Criteria – Networks Prize Challenge

Challenge participants will be evaluated throughout iRIL Integration Workshops and Challenge demonstrations by a panel of qualified networking experts and using the following criteria which is in descending order of importance:

  • Operational impact of the technology/engineering innovation in the intended mission scenarios and operational environment
  • Technical performance – Network Overhead
  • Technical performance – Total network goodput
  • Technical performance – Average End-to-end latency and network convergence time after topology changes
  • Integration complexity of the technology/engineering innovation
  • Technical maturity of the technology/engineering innovation

Goodput is defined as the fraction of available capacity that is used to deliver application traffic, and implicitly factors in the overhead consumed by the routing protocol.

End-to-end latency is defined as the average transit time of packets for the duration of a flow over the network.

Network convergence time is defined as the time taken to successfully route a packet after a network topology change.

iRIL Simulation Environment

Participants will be provided a virtual machine (VM) which contains the SBE. The iRIL uses a group of Linux containers connected to a network simulator, hosted on a virtual machine (VM). The test scenario will be scripted in the simulator, which will determine connectivity, link latency and link loss rates at any given time. Participants do not need a detailed understanding of the network simulator beyond how to start, stop and reset the scenario. The simulator will provide real-time feedback about the network connectivity and performance metrics. This feedback is for ease of observability and should not be used by the routing technology.

Submitted technologies must be compatible with Linux Centos7 which will host the network simulator. Technologies will be run within Centos7 containers in the VM. The operating systems will have the following additional user software installed as a baseline:

  • Free Range Routing (FRR)

The routing agents must be Linux VM compatible (e.g., a GUI, console, or powershell using standard Linux installation procedures). Documentation inclusive of installation procedures should also be provided when submitting the tool, in accordance with the tool submission guidelines provided above. Participants may install additional software within the containers, as long as it is included in the submission package.

Additionally, the scenario will contain a set of application traffic flows that will start and stop automatically as the scenario progresses.

The iRIL platform used at AINet ANTX includes monitoring, visualizations and metrics tracking, and participants do not need to dedicate resources to provide this functionality.

Technologies that require specific hardware, proprietary components, or on-premises management appliances or consoles will not be considered.

Prize Award Details

Winners will be announced at the conclusion of the Challenge event. NAVWAR will also announce the winners on the Challenge.gov website, the NAVWAR LinkedIN page, media outlets, and social media channels.

NAVWAR has established $100,000 as the total amount set aside for cash prizes under this Challenge. A $75,000 first place cash prize will be awarded to the winning entry. A $25,000 second place cash prize will also be awarded. In the unlikely event of a tie, NAVWAR will determine an equitable method of distributing the cash prizes. In the event that an entity ineligible of receiving the cash award wins first and/or second place, NAVWAR will determine the equitable method of distributing the cash prizes.

If a prize goes to a team of participants, NAVWAR will award the cash prize to the individual/team’s point of contact registered via the challenge website, for further distribution to the team, as the team members see fit.

NAVWAR is executing two simultaneous but independent prize challenges the AINet ANTX. This prize challenge announcement, and the details within, refer specifically to the Networks Prize Challenge. A companion prize challenge, titled the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Prize Challenge, has been announced separately on Challenge.gov.

How to Enter

Entry Instructions

See Rules.

Submission URL or Email: Please submit entries to the following email address: NetANTX@niwc.navy.mil

Appendix A: White Paper Submission Guidelines

Appendix B: Quad Chart Template