Case Study

Remote Maintenance in Networks with Classification Level "German VS-NfD": Mixed-Reality Collaboration in Real Time for German Armed Services and Defense Technology

In a field camp, at sea, in disaster areas: Defense technology is often maintained and repaired at the deployment location to ensure that the urgently needed high-tech equipment is ready for operation at all times. Technical support of the highly complex systems requires experts with specialized knowledge – such experts are a relatively rare commodity. With the remote support system "T-Maintenance XR" and the genua rendezvous remote maintenance solution, technicians on site can work collaboratively with an expert directly, intuitively and securely over any distance using mixed reality.

The Challenge

The main objective of all maintenance and repair measures in defense technology is to ensure that the German Armed Services are ready for deployment at all times. This task primarily takes place not in the workshop but at the deployment location, i.e., in field camps, logistic facilities or even on ships on international missions. Modern military systems are becoming ever more complex and need to be maintained by a comparatively small number of experts with specialized knowledge. This means that the rare expert knowledge must be quickly made available at a wide variety of different locations, often just for a short time and for important details. Modern mixed-reality technologies make this possible. However, secure remote support by experts places high demands on IT security, requires simple integration in existing networks as well as reliable and transparent monitoring options.

The Solution: Mixed-Reality Collaboration with T-Maintenance XR

"T-Maintenance XR" is a remote support system that allows technicians to be supported remotely on site by experts quickly and at low cost. A special feature is the mixed-reality collaboration during maintenance. Via a secure audio/video connection in combination with real-time interaction and document exchange, remote experts can intuitively get a picture of the situation on the ground and work together with the on-site maintenance technician. Here, head-mounted displays (HMDs) for mixed reality, e.g., Microsoft HoloLens 2, are used to enable two-handed maintenance with audio-visual support. A camera with remotely controllable focus and zoom function provides an overall view of the scenario.

What happens in a remote support session?

1. The maintenance technician calls the support desk to request an expert.
2. The support desk organizes a remote session for the maintenance technician.
3. The maintenance technician joins the session via the XR application on HoloLens 2.
4. The expert joins the session via a web application.
5. The expert sees the system to be maintained from the viewpoint of the technician and can provide support by means of audio communication. The expert can provide documents and set markers.
6. The maintenance technician carries out the maintenance with the aid of the expert and ends the session.

Rendezvous for Secure Connection Setup and Exchange

It is easy to see why remote access in military settings is a sensitive issue in terms of the protection of classified government information. Remote support requires a highly secure, classified network to be partially opened up in a potentially insecure external network. This is why T-Maintenance XR in combination with the rendezvous remote maintenance solution from genua is used, which is based on components approved for classification level "German VS-NfD" by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).

Special features of the rendezvous approach are:

  • Communication is monitored and takes place only within an agreed maintenance window via a connection that is encrypted for classification level "German VS-NfD"
  • A rendezvous server acts as a secure mediator between the maintenance technician in the field and the internal restricted network, i.e., the support desk
  • For the remote session, the field technician sets up an IPsec tunnel to the remote peer via a highly secure, restricted-level-approved end device
  • The remote maintenance connection must always be authorized and set up internally, i.e., by the service desk
  • An SSH VPN, which only grants access to certain applications/services (ports), is used for setting up the direct connection
  • All network access is configured, controlled, monitored and recorded using a central management solution
  • The communication partner in the internal, classified network retains control of the communication connection at all times

The Result: Highly Secure Remote Support for Classification Level "German VS-NfD"

T-Maintenance XR in combination with the genua rendezvous remote maintenance system provides a solution to the problem whereby dedicated special knowledge of experts who are not available on site is necessary for the maintenance of technically highly complex military or civil systems in the field. By using mixed reality, experts and field technicians can work on resolving the problem remotely, collaboratively and in real time. This increases the availability of the systems and avoids unnecessary travel costs. Special features of the solution are:

  • The remote maintenance solution is easy to integrate in existing networks, easy to learn and easy to use
  • It supports the intuitive exchange of expert knowledge in real time
  • Through a BSI-approved WLAN connection and the rendezvous remote maintenance concept with components approved for classification level "German VS-NfD", it is suitable for deployment in military settings and for the protection of classified information
  • T-Maintenance XR is portable, self-contained and can be used directly at the deployment location using the communication connections of the customer or optionally via mobile telephony
  • The solution can be operated in a cloud or on-premise in a datacenter. If Microsoft HoloLens 2 is used, the solution is possible without connection to Microsoft Azure Cloud.

More information about the remote maintenance solution from genua.