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US Army Considers a Smartphone For Every Soldier 279

Posted by timothy
from the can-you-hear-me-now dept.
destinyland writes "The US Army is seriously considering the idea of issuing a smartphone to every soldier, and they're already modernizing one Texas brigade 'through a range of electronic devices that will include not just smartphones but tablet devices, e-reader and mini-projectors.' The company that developed Patriot missiles has already created several dedicated military apps for both iPhone and Android phones, including one that allows soldiers to track colleague's locations on the battlefield. Interestingly, the army is likely to use an off-the-shelf model, heightening the war between Apple and Android phones. Apple's non-replaceable batteries may become an issue in the field, since 'plugging the phone in to recharge isn't always a viable option in the middle of combat.'"
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US Army Considers a Smartphone For Every Soldier

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  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @08:26PM (#34611208)
    Didn't they just ban all portable mass storage devices as security risks? I mean what do they think these smart phones are?
  • by PCM2 (4486) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @08:27PM (#34611218) Homepage

    I haven't seen much consumer electronics equipment that could survive a combat environment. Seems like just the sand alone in Iraq would mess up a lot of devices pretty quick.

    And that's the thing -- it's all well and good to say that a certain piece of equipment will give soldiers some kind of advantage, but after a while the "advantage" becomes the norm. What happens then, when a piece of equipment that a soldier has come to rely upon just stops working? Do they carry on like before they had the equipment, or does what was once an advantage become a disadvantage, as the soldiers have to essentially retrain themselves on the fly?

    Batteries, cracked screens, fouled-up input devices, software bugs... there's a reason why equipment designed for the military costs so much more than consumer equipment..

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 19, 2010 @08:32PM (#34611274)

    Didn't they just ban all portable mass storage devices as security risks? I mean what do they think these smart phones are?

    I don't think it being a "portable mass storage device" will be a problem since it won't be able to connect to their machines. Though handing every solder a small, portable video/photo camera with instant upload capabilities might not be a smart idea...

  • brilliant! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 19, 2010 @08:38PM (#34611316)

    I wonder how much other Chinese electronics it'll be a good idea to use on the battlefield.

    User space apps by DARPA. Rootkit by the the PLA.

  • Re:Not now Mom (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 19, 2010 @08:39PM (#34611330)

    That's the conscientious one. The regular guy will be like "Gotta get back to you later, sir, I am updating my status now".

    But actually you should not read too much into it. This is just another money grab from the military -- they, and their contractor friends must be getting hungry on the lean offerings of Obama's budget.

  • by timeOday (582209) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @08:39PM (#34611334)
    I doubt this is intended for the battlefield. Remember,soldiers spend 99.999% of their time not in combat, doing training or planning or arranging to get from point a to point b or whatever. The smarphones would probably fill a similar role as they do in any modern corporation, having little direct involvement in actual combat operations for the foreseeable future.
  • by papaia (652949) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @08:41PM (#34611356)
    I'd rather have a Smartsoldier for Every Phone
  • by timeOday (582209) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @09:02PM (#34611472)
    I know, but parse out what the army is actually considering, vs. what some company is pushing at them. Here's more of the quote you provided: "The company that developed the Patriot missile system has created several dedicated military apps for both systems, including one that allows soldiers to track colleague's locations on the battlefield."

    Defense contractors everwhere are spinning off imaginative "apps" on how these things might be used. I still think the Army's actual implementation (if any) will be much, much less ambitious.

  • by Beerdood (1451859) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @09:14PM (#34611558)

    I mean what do they think these smart phones are?

    Another method of turning taxpayer money into corporate profit

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @09:21PM (#34611614)
    conservatives should be all over cutting frivolous defense spending like this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 19, 2010 @09:22PM (#34611624)

    You do realise most phones these days can be connected as mass storage via USB? Then there's WLAN, Bluetooth, IrDA, Screen codes, Accustic coupling.... there are literally thousands of ways to get big amounts of data out of an Computer with a Smartphone.

  • by gig (78408) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @11:29PM (#34612446)

    > what do they think these smart phones are?

    They think they are computers that don't require you to have a desk. That is all. They have already replaced many PC's with iPod touch, because they look at it as a mobile PC, and they value mobility. That is why the US military is really interested in iPads.

    iOS devices do not attach as USB mass storage. You have to add an app like Air Sharing (which is easily prohibited by a device policy) just to see a file system.

  • Re:Joke right? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shiftless (410350) on Monday December 20, 2010 @05:27AM (#34613856) Homepage

    In Afghanistan? Yeah, they pretty much are. But even if they weren't, what's to stop the US Army from running their own mobile cell networks? You could easily integrate a cell transponder into a Humvee or MRAP, and/or established fixed stations at FOBs, and all of the data could be routed through existing SATCOM equipment to SIPRNET.

    This is a really good idea, but I foresee this program is gonna be something that requires custom hardware development. Off the shelf smart phones aren't gonna cut it. For one, how are you gonna see the screen at night, without it lighting up your position to the enemy just as good as if you'd shined a flashlight in your face? It would need to work in very dark (tactical) conditions, be usable by soldiers wearing gloves, be durable enough to withstand combat, etc.

    Can you imagine a device like this on every soldier's wrist that instantly shows him the location of allies and fellow soldiers, suspected enemies, etc, plotted out on an overhead map with actual satellite photos of terrain, and real time GPS positioning? Like FalconView (and already existing system used on PCs) it could show the positions of minefields, previously reported encounters with enemy forces, all kinds of details. How about if it could plot a route for a soldier from point A to point B, with the best use of cover, using all the information currently available, say if he is unfamiliar with the terrain and the squad leader just got shot? For those with a security clearance (squad leader, radio man, etc), it could be integrated with the existing IRC networks on SIPRNET to let him view real time text chatter about the tactical situation. I mean there is a billion ways this technology could be used to great benefit on today's and tomorrow's battlefield.

  • Re:Joke right? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarkOx (621550) on Monday December 20, 2010 @09:39AM (#34614768) Journal

    I know you were being sarcastic but it probably has never been so challenging. Going all the way back to our own revolution a bunch of farmers with out data rifles managed to defeat British regular army, although with some French assistance. Its also true at the time there was less separation between a hunting rifle and an army rifle in terms of tech.

    Here we are in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting farmers with outdated rifles and help from Iran, Syria, and likely Pakistan. They have the benefit of history to know what works and what does not against a superior force and lots of them have experience fighting the Russian army. Their tech might be a little outdated but its also true a 35 year old Russian AK is still plenty lethal, as are left over Rocket propelled grenades and launchers we gave them. There are probably a fare number of single shot WWI and WWII era rifles we gave them to fight the Russians still floating about as well.

    So yes it really has never been harder and asymmetric warfare has not really been easy for two centuries; with the possible exception of the Mexican War.

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