Soldiers in the U.S. Army will be given standard gear, such as boots, M16, BDU’s (Battle Dress Uniform – camouflage clothes), ammunition, and a smartphone, starting later this year. Following its test pilot to measure the viability of soldiers in combat with touchscreens and tablet, the Army is encouraged at the results at White Sands New Mexico and Fort Bliss Texas.
Operational radios are standard equipment for specified members of brigades. Smartphones will serve as a wider spread device that enhances existing operational equipment, without replacing them. Foot soldiers will utilize sms technology to send info on their surroundings, pictures, GPS locations, access maps, and complete reports quickly.
Michael McCarthy, the program director, said, “This technology is very familiar to these young soldiers. It has been part of their upbringing and they are extremely comfortable with it.” The Army is enhancing this experience, though, with “augmented reality”. This is a technology that allows an overlay of info on images of the surroundings, by means of tapping into the user’s camera and GPS.
Altogether, the Army has stress tested 300 Androids, Windows Phone, and iPhone units. More testing is looking at Dell, Apple, and HP. The Joint Battle Command-Platform Handheld, which is a customized Google Android phone, is under examination by another Army division.
McCarthy declared, “Every phone we’ve looked at up close has been good.” One phone in particular had hangups. It was a Samsung Electronics, which Sprint Nextel was good enough to replace with a different model. Another problem was that the iPhone did not have AT&T coverage in the deserts of White Sands. Although the Army does not reveal which strings it pulled to make it happen, but they reveal that they were able to run the iPhone through the battery of tests.
Mazzanti, Army director and founder of the mobile-device program, said, “Both Android and iPhone have proven useful.” Mazzanti admits that the Army will likely approve two mobile operating systems in order to provide variety, limit required time for software development, and still provide some buffer against cyber-attacks aimed at a specific OS. Army software engineers, it is claimed, have developed a protocol for porting apps between the two platforms with ease. “Mobile-optimized web pages” are the official term for yet another approach. Could this be Php?
Neither Google not Apple would comment on their cooperation with the U.S. Army. However, the Army claims that the chassis of metal, glass, and plastic is amazingly resilient and rugged. While they have withstood sandstorms and baking sun, one did get crushed under a vehicle. To operate these tools in adverse conditions, one needs only a pair of over-the-counter gloves.
Mazzanti admits, “We lack the proper encryption necessary to operate the phones in full combat, in connection with the rest of our mission-command systems. It is possible within the year that the phones operate in a protected environment provided by the tactical radios as a shield.”
A welcomed addition to the program integrating smartphones is the makeshift cell tower in a briefcase program. Although it will provide only limited range, it will fill the gap of unreliable network coverage.