Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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The Army's smart turn to battlefield apps

Smart phone technology is taking over the rest of the world it seems, so why should the U.S. military be immune? The Army, at least, seems to be willing to see how far it can go, even on the front lines.

Ars Technica reported on a recent visit that the Army’s top propeller heads made to Apple to check out how the technology behind the company’s hugely popular mobile products could be used in tactical situations, apparently part of a larger push by the Army in that direction.

Makes a lot of sense, from various angles. Major General Nick Justice, who leads the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command, said the service is moving away from “big-green-box solutions” and is looking to leverage the kind of billion dollar investments that Apple and other companies have put into this kind of mobile tech.

Suffice to say, the Army’s brass have probably also been made aware of the fact that many of its young soldiers already make use of things like iPods out in the field, at least in terms of the apps that can be developed for particular situations.

That’s also a ready-made app development force, given the fact that many of those soldiers were already probably developing and coding for the iPhone and other devices before they enlisted. Or, at least, they have a natural app-titude (get it?) for doing that.

The Army is trying to tap that talent through a recently announced “Apps for the Army” competition aimed at creating smart phone and Web applications that will “enhance warfighting effectiveness”.

This is a step beyond current mobile research and development efforts. The Army already has it’s Go Mobile program that allows its soldiers to use smart phones to access Army Knowledge Online, through which they can e-mail, conference with other soldiers, download information they need, and more.

This is all a way for the Army to deploy leading edge technology without having to go to the expense of building it all itself. They also get to tap into that knowledgeable and enthusiastic development force. Plus, they get all of that out there and into the hands of its soldiers much, much faster.

The Army finally goes mobile! 

Posted by Brian Robinson on Mar 29, 2010 at 12:19 PM


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Reader comments

Wed, Apr 28, 2010 John Schrader Virginia

The Army is often misrepresented as a leviathan incapable of change. Nothing is further from the truth, the scale of the Army network is akin to taking an aircraft carrier through a speedboat slalom. Apps for the Army is only part of the change. The Army is looking at moving away from dedicated links and transport to an Everything over IP topology. Acquisition law and regulation are being reviewed to aid the Army in rapidly inserting relevant and mature commercial capability into the field in months rather than years. Industry is the key, we need ideas and we need enablers. If we don't need a one off DoD solution, we will take the 80% solution now rather than the exquisite 99% solution in 5 or more years. Go Army, Beat Navy (not that the Navy isn't just as far along in changing the face of IT too!).jfs

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