Army tests iOS and Android devices for potential combat usage

June 3, 2011 by Katie Gatto report
Motorola Atrix 4G
Motorola Atrix 4G

The US Army is beginning some interesting testing. They are considering dropping out some of the bulkier and significantly more expensive communications gear currently carried by soldiers, and replacing it with a smart phone. The phones, which run between $400 to $700, would either be Apple models, running on the iOS, or one of Google’s Android-based OS phones.

The testing is expected to be a bit more intense than what the device goes through in order to be sold to the average consumer. This will be more like field combat testing to see if it can manage not only the daily wear and tear but significant environmental factors and some extra bumps and drops, because the last thing that soldiers will be worried about when they are fighting for their lives is the effect that it will have on their iPhones.

If the smart phone system is adopted it will represent a faster way to update troop information and put a variety of different types of information, from the location of other units to the weather front rolling in, in the palm of a soldiers hand.

Of course, to be usable for military applications these phones will need a serious security upgrade. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the military is looking into biometrics in order to not only help to secure the phones, but to help identify suspected insurgents on the spot. This system could be similar to the fingerprint that is currently being added to the Atrix 4G by Motorola. Of course, since there are already tools to hack the iPhone out there

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15 comments

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Joe_Sidorowicz
not rated yet Jun 03, 2011
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?! Please Helloo Over....? BOOM ..........
"Bad Idea." LOL!!! All those phones have horrible coverage. Try diving behind a rock with one in your pocket. Bet you $10 bucks you wont be able to read the screen after...
J-n
5 / 5 (4) Jun 03, 2011
Of course, since there are already tools to hack the iPhone out there


ummm... did this article get cut off? Seems like this is only 1/2 a sentence in a paragraph that was not finished.

Did I miss something?
Skultch
not rated yet Jun 03, 2011
Coverage. Physical damage. Security.

All engineering challenges. Hardly insurmountable.

The current "mobile" phone used by the vast majority of the Army (don't know about the other forces) weighs 70 POUNDS!! It mounts in trucks, obviously. (SINCGARS is not a phone, nor is it easily carried)

I can think of 10 appropriate applications for this, just off the top of my head.

Peace time training (already used in an inefficient way)
Logistics coordination
On-base comms (even in war zones)
Corps level HQ comms (even in war zones)
Counterintelligence
Long range surveillance (3rd backup behind HF, Sat, FM)
Forward Observations
Community relations
Long distance broadcast alerts (usually PtP, not broadcast)
Angry Birds ;)

I've personally supported most of these in Iraq during the initial weeks of conflict in 2003, then for a whole year, but using encrypted sat phones using the Iridium Sat network. They sucked.
TehDog
5 / 5 (2) Jun 03, 2011
I think the ideal would be a ruggedised Android, slap on on a custom militarised rom and a few apps and away you go. The idea of using an iDevice in any sort of military role makes me alternately shudder and laugh :]
Skultch
not rated yet Jun 03, 2011
The military procurement process is a monster; horribly inefficient and slow. This is the reason for using "off the shelf" tech. If we don't do these kinds of things AND fix the procurement process, our national security is doomed to failure.
Idle
not rated yet Jun 03, 2011
What about the batterylife? If you're using any of these continuously for checking other units' positions and weather and receiving orders etc. the battery will last for 4 or 5 hours max
Skultch
not rated yet Jun 03, 2011
What about the batterylife? If you're using any of these continuously for checking other units' positions and weather and receiving orders etc. the battery will last for 4 or 5 hours max


What makes you think that soldiers are going to be glued to their smartphones any more than normal people?

They will not use this to monitor troop movements or handle secret/TS information. How do you deal with lost phones? You can't.

How often does anyone need to check the weather? That's not significant.
TehDog
not rated yet Jun 03, 2011
Heh, just bothered to google ruggedised Android and found this

http://androidand...ty-jobs/

Looks just the job :)
Gilbert
1 / 5 (2) Jun 04, 2011
looks like the inadequacies of the US military are a direct result of how over the top capitalist the whole system is, really unbalanced. every other developed military in the world has efficient coms, this is because they have what the us lacks. A so called "socialist"element in their regulations..
Jimbaloid
not rated yet Jun 04, 2011
iShot
MarkyMark
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 04, 2011
looks like the inadequacies of the US military are a direct result of how over the top capitalist the whole system is, really unbalanced. every other developed military in the world has efficient coms, this is because they have what the us lacks. A so called "socialist"element in their regulations..

Carefull some of the more rabid Americans here might call you a commie for saying something good about 'Socalism'.
ab3a
5 / 5 (2) Jun 04, 2011
This is a problem. Was the OS originally designed for high reliability environments? Was it really designed for security or was it designed for security theater? Where are the lines of trust in this code?

I can think of many things that won't be noticed right away until someone actually hacks it. Start with a clean sheet of paper, or perhaps start with carefully reviewed open source. But using a closed source OS developed for the public's viewing pleasure? --bad idea!
LuckyBrandon
not rated yet Jun 04, 2011
What about the batterylife? If you're using any of these continuously for checking other units' positions and weather and receiving orders etc. the battery will last for 4 or 5 hours max


A: solar chargers; most of our combat is in the desert these days ;)
telescoper
not rated yet Jun 05, 2011
looks like the inadequacies of the US military are a direct result of how over the top capitalist the whole system is, really unbalanced. every other developed military in the world has efficient coms, this is because they have what the us lacks. A so called "socialist"element in their regulations..

Carefull some of the more rabid Americans here might call you a commie for saying something good about 'Socalism'.


WTF over?

You guys are coming off a bit rabid yourselves.
Gilbert
not rated yet Jun 10, 2011
lol... when somebody voices an opinion that is different to yours it's not necessarily an attack. It's just an opinion, and as an outside observer perhaps that opinion is worth something.

Fact: the US military (in this case the army) is facing problems that many other developed countries aren't.
Ie: the article states directly that they don't have enough money to develop comms.
This is an "inadequacy", is it not? and the word is not derogatory or insulting.
Another fact: the United States army relies heavily on procurement of it's resources from third parties (companies).

This = Capitalism. That is not derogatory either.

I don't understand how my previous comment could be considered "rabid" at all, unless perhaps by someone who is unwilling to listen to other peoples observations and opinions.

things just got rabid

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