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US Army runs smartphone trial, could see 'limited deployment' later this year

Sean Buckley, @seaniccus
July 16, 2011
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Sure, the US Army could continue to develop expensive proprietary gadgets for use in the field, or they could make the switch to (relatively) inexpensive off-the-shelf smartphones. It's a change that's been considered for some time, and the Army is now at the tail end of a six-week trial of more than 300 Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone devices for military use. The results have been promising, according to program director Michael McCarthy, stating that younger soldiers who grew up with smartphones and handhelds are very comfortable using them for military purposes.

Soldiers in the field can text GPS coordinates, send pictures of their surroundings, or file common reports directly from their phone. Despite positive results, the Army still has some hurdles to jump before taking the plunge -- some of the phones had OS bugs, others (specifically, iPhones running on AT&T) couldn't get signal in the New Mexico and Texas testing areas, and none of the devices were secure enough for use in overseas operations. The Army is considering tying the phones to tactical radios to help encrypt transmissions, and are testing self contained "cell tower in a suitcase" equipment to ensure coverage in sensitive locations. The Military hopes to push out limited deployment this year, and Army program director Ed Mazzanti has stated that they expect to select two mobile operating systems for official use, noting that "iPhone and Android have been very well received." Sure, using multiple platforms may help protect soldiers against cyber attacks, but we can't be the only ones worried the Army is unintentionally breeding a generation of fanboys with guns, can we?



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