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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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  • Not now Mom (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cidtek (632990) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @08:22PM (#34611190)

    I gotta get back to ya later Mom - I'm kinda engaged right now.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • Joke right? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ilgaz (86384) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @09:01PM (#34611458) Homepage

      I gotta get back to ya later Mom - I'm kinda engaged right now.

      What if I told you me and 10+ other guys saw 'AFK: Real War' from an actual soldier in Afghanistan playing a war simulation at that time?

      (not naming any names including game)

    • IFF, TL;DR

      (IFF is now In Fire Fight :)

    • by c6gunner (950153) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @09:42PM (#34611778)

      Yea, funny mental picture, but I remember as far back as 1999 getting a call on my cell from a friend while in the middle of combat training. Apparently she was freaking out for the next day or two because she heard gunfire and explosions in the background, with me saying "kinda busy, call ya back".

      • by russ1337 (938915) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @11:13PM (#34612346)

        I had a similar experience. A few years ago I was trying to keep contact with a girl while I was away, so gave her a call while on an exercise. During the call she said 'what is that banging noise?' ... 'oh that, that's just some artillery fire... so anyway, what are you wearing?'

    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @10:02PM (#34611894)

      There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My iPhone is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my iPhone is useless. Without my iPhone, I am useless. I must text my iPhone true. I must text faster than my mother, who is trying to block me. I must text my friends before she grounds me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my iPhone and myself are defenders of my social life, we are the masters of our parents, we are the saviors of my social life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.

      I didn't intend that to be that creepy when I started it, but I think that describes 90% of high school and college students I've interacted with.

      • So teenagers have developed a symbiotic relationship with their Iphone. Holy shit that is pretty damn creepy.
    • That's gotta give a whole new meaning to NO CARRIER jok^NO CARRIER.
  • 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?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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.

        • I think the key is that it's not a mass storage device, it's another computer on the network. As such, they will have ways of controlling what is contained on it the way they do with all their other machines. And since they presumably already deal with laptops, they should already understand the risks of portability and have procedures in place. The problem with dumb storage devices is that you can never have that control.

        • by 1u3hr (530656)
          there are literally thousands of ways to get big amounts of data out of an Computer with a Smartphone.

          I wish people wouldn't say "literally" when they're obviously wildly exaggerating.

    • 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

      • Ding ding ding! We have a winner!
      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Of course when it comes to control freaks no one can match military officers, no matter how incompetent they are at it. Smartphones for every soldier so;

        24/7 monitoring of location
        The military own the phone and the service person so random activation recording and computer analysis of the phones microphone
        Always on call no refusal

        So the military is the ideal place to test digital enslavement of the populace, next parolees, then the general populace for any misdemeanour activity like not being rich or bei

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

      Well.. that really doesn't rule out the iPhone...

    • 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.

  • 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 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 Haedrian (1676506) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @08:47PM (#34611394)

        I was thinking that as well, then I read -

        "including one that allows soldiers to track colleague's locations on the battlefield" and "isn't always a viable option in the middle of combat". So I'm actually wondering what they're going to be doing with them. It'd be rather sensless to take smartphones with you to get mud, sand, shrapnel and whatever on them. And when are you supposed to use them? "Yeah I'm pinned down. Let me take a picture of the guy shooting at us, maybe we'll see him again later"

          If its just for stuff like wanting to find out whether your friend's in the mess hall or taking a nap or whatever would be fine. But then why do the batteries matter?

        • 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 gig (78408)

          The use is to run apps. Same thing you do with a computer. Instead of a PC notebook, they want to use iPod touch and iPhones because that makes more sense if you are MOBILE. The US military has many of its own iOS apps already. The first use was sniper calculators.

      • "iPhone makes sniping easier" [cnet.com], "Bullet Flight 1.0.0 – the US$15 iPhone app for snipers" [gizmag.com]... You'd be surprised just at how many ballistics calculators there are! There are, in fact, tons of places in combat where iPhones already have a foothold. And I'm pretty sure that a good bumper that covers the ports would make it sand-proof, too.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          One of the most successful snipers in history [wikipedia.org] shot with iron sights.

          I know EVERY company is trying to make stuff so that skilled labor is no longer needed. (The newest bulldozers and motor graders use joysticks, no more long training on hydraulic levers).

          • I know EVERY company is trying to make stuff so that skilled labor is no longer needed. (The newest bulldozers and motor graders use joysticks, no more long training on hydraulic levers).

            There is nothing intrinsically "skilled" about a control system designed in the early 1900's, as opposed to the early 2000's. You do not eliminate the need for skilled labour by changing the user interface...

          • by Duradin (1261418)

            Automobiles really went down hill after they replaced the tiller and manually adjusted carburetors. Now any idiot (with no servants to walk in front carrying flags) can operate a horseless carriage!

        • by nbauman (624611)

          They have an Otterbox off-the-shelf rugged case, too.

      • As a former grunt, and person who LOVES technology -I say nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo These will be tracking devices... there will be nowhere to hide! and your right on they will be for garrison.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      I haven't seen much consumer electronics equipment that could survive a combat environment.

      I would bet that military personnel in Iraq or Afghanistan are far better equipped when it comes to "consumer electronics" than your average Slashdot user.

      They've got so many laptops, tablets, game consoles and handheld gaming systems, portable DVD players, digital cameras, iPads etc that I'm surprised there's any time left for gay sex or torture. Seriously, a family member in Kandahar is always after me to send him

    • There's one consumer device that can survive combat: The original Game Boy. That beast could probably be used for armor plating tanks.
    • by Bruha (412869)

      No military equipment costs so much because of a few factors, Reason #1, the government is too stupid to get a good deal on anything. The idea that competitive bidding gets you anywhere is a scam. Second the maker is only going to make around a few hundred thousand of whatever. Why waste resources selling to an army of 500,000 vs the 50 million customers in the US and beyond.

      I'm sure they approached Steve Jobs about this, and he probably blew them off for selling iPhones to Verizon Wireless customers.

      • by gig (78408)

        The US military has the world's largest collection of iPod touch, for which they did indeed get a deal from Apple. Right after the iPad launched, the US military showed up at Apple headquarters and got a hands-on, because they have had such good success with iPod touch and Xcode apps, they wanted to replace PC's with iPads ASAP.

        Remember that the Department of Defense and NSA were absolutely huge NeXT customers. The tools you use to make an iOS app or Mac app are the same ones that were used to make NeXT app

  • by commlinx (1068272) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @08:29PM (#34611238) Journal
    Upload to Wikileaks, is there an app for that?
    • not on the main app store.

      • by c0lo (1497653)
        Jail-breaking is hardly an option in the army... I mean... just look at Bradley.
    • They should give the diplomats and foreign intelligence also these devices and change the name to youtubeleaks. Than we at least have some nice footage to see the gory details of what is done in the name of the US citizen..
  • Rather than straight out "off the shelf" devices, wouldn't they be better served by something equivalent to a Panasonic Toughbook. Maybe that could be covered by 3rd party cases (with built-in batteries) but an iPhone is something that requires a bit of protection even for everyday use.

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      Smartphones are built pretty tough actually, and there are tons of wonderful 3rd party cases that can make iPhones pretty indestructible.

      I think a charger + case all-in-one would be the best bet, similar to the mophie juice pack air [mophie.com] because swapping batteries out of a phone while on the battlefield doesn't sound like such a hot idea to me. No smartphone has a long enough battery life anyway, so a second battery in a case would probably be best, and maybe the case could have a easily swappable battery.
    • by gig (78408)

      There are many, many, many iPhone cases of every possible description, all built to fit any model exactly, because there are only 3 different form factors after 3.5 years. And iPhones and iPod touch are cheap enough by military standards they just treat them as disposable. They have bullets that cost more.

  • They better get a GOOD DATA plan with free roaming or the fees will kill them.
    where you can hit 11k for a few hours of web surfing in Canada and Canada rates are much lower then over places.

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Some of the places they could fight probably are out of range (even if in range, could be a vulnerability, an infiltration mission could be badly screwed because someone called the wrong number, or would be bad of someones position could be triangulated). So or they use satellite signal, or they don't plan use it in the battlefield. Of course, are also good pocket computers with camera, gps and so on, so would love that them add i.e. some augumented reality apps to the current set for all.
  • 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.

    • That is exactly why whoever wins the contract NEEDS to bring back the manufacturing to America. Considering that Apple has not done manufacturing in decades and never on this scale, then it would make sense for Motorola win.
  • "Oi, , can you just stop shooting for a bit while I change the battery and reboot my phone?"
  • If im not mistaken motorola has/had a few phones that could stand drop and shock to some mil spec. If they could put a smartphone into that sort of shell durability would be less of an issue
    • by gig (78408)

      The US military already has the largest collection of iPod touch in the world. They put them in rugged cases, and they don't really care if you break one, since by military standards, they are disposable devices.

  • by papaia (652949) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @08:41PM (#34611356)
    I'd rather have a Smartsoldier for Every Phone
  • Pvt Smith just checked in to "That Big Crater in the middle of the town"

  • I could see using these things while not deployed, but I suspect that the coverage in Afghanistan will be a little poor. If they are talking about a souped up handset radio, it might work...
  • by Hartree (191324) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @09:00PM (#34611454)

    So, you're going to put a comm device on every soldier that emits RF much of the time?

    You better seed the whole place with decoy receiver transmitters or relay devices.

    Else a military with any level of technical sophistication will use it to target and trigger munitions.

    (I had a similar idea when I was in the Army still in the 80s. But it involved specifically putting out more decoys to act as relays than there were soldiers/real radios. Some of them moving, so that wouldn't be a way to decide which was real. Wasn't very practical at the time due to limits on the computing power available.)

    • by Haedrian (1676506)

      Don't other people own cell phones? Even if you perhaps you discount the natives in certain cases, but what about press, red cross, and similar? You wouldn't get very clever results using it.

      The fact that they're considering their use means there is an actual network connection to use. Maybe in the 80s it would have been the case, but nowadays you even have farmers who can hardly afford to buy clothes, using mobile devices to check market prices for their goods online.

      • by Hartree (191324)

        Yes, they do have them in urban environments especially. But, issuing identical type smart phones to all your soldiers tags them even then.

        So what if there are a few journalists or civilian with the same phones are among them? Would that stop someone if they could get, say, 45% of the time a soldier?

        And out in the back areas where the population density is low, the rate is even better.

        And, if you're going to use the phones in those back areas for more than voice, you have to have a reasonably modern cell n

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Sunday December 19, 2010 @09:21PM (#34611614)
    conservatives should be all over cutting frivolous defense spending like this.
  • Hmmm I'd think they'd at least want something ruggedized like this one [androidandme.com] that already meets military specs. There's no way a stock iPhone or more 'droid phones would stand up to any kind of abused in the field.

    • by gig (78408)

      There are about 10,000 various cases for each iPhone model, all built to fit that model exactly. If you want a rugged iPhone, you put it in a rugged case.

  • I see this as an excellent opportunity for defence to be able to utilise the innovation of the small software vendor. Generally software supply contracts are won by big players. A platform like this enables small players to more easily get in the game as they can release apps tagged as defence apps, and the forces can see if they are useful or not. And yes, I haven't used American spelling in my post.
  • And here I am, considering dumping my smartphone for a good old fashioned dumbphone. Don't get me wrong, by HTC Hero is great as a web browser, a text messenger, a Wordfeud platform. If I want to see what time a movie is playing or what planets are visible in tonight's sky, the smartphone is awesome. But god help me if I want to make an actual phone call. If they thought repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell was going to be bad for military readiness...
  • This sounds a lot like the old PLRS/JTIDS hybrid (Position Location Reporting System/Joint Tactical Information Dissemination System) ideas that were being shown off around the US Army Signal Center in 1980 or so. It would have relayed back the location of each unit, and allowed messages to be sent back and forth.

    GPS didn't exist yet, so you kept location with timing between the nodes of the network. It was text messages at that time. Very limited, but still the core of the idea.

    When encryptable packet swit

  • ... and homosexuals in the military ...
  • "including one that allows soldiers to track colleague's locations on the battlefield."

    Now, lets say I am a soldier that has just been killed. My device does not know this, but the opposing force does. They pickup my phone, start running through a list of who is on the battlefield, and designate where their snipers need to aim.

    Alternatively, opposing force finds device, and now appears on the location system as the soldier. This could be a bit of an issue if they send a message via it for everyone
  • by koan (80826)

    Android with custom hardened OS hands down, Apple has never impressed me with security and they've run off of "macs don't get viruses" for too long (although they never officially state this it is a common misconception).

    • by gig (78408)

      Macs don't get viruses. The misconception that they do is yours. There are zero OS X viruses. There are 3 Mac OS trojans, all of which the system will refuse to run. On iOS, there is no native malware at all.

      iOS is much, much more secure than "Android" which is a meaningless term. Talk to us about a particular Android phone after it has been abused by a hardware manufacturer and a carrier, that is the real world. Unsigned apps don't even run on iOS. It is possible for an organization such as the US military

  • If you need more than one battery on an iPhone, you add a second, external battery, typically built into a case, and that battery is of course, replaceable, you can carry 10 if you like. iPhone also has about double the battery life of any Android phone right out of the box, so if we're talking batteries, Android is at a distinct disadvantage.

    The US military already owns the largest collection of iPod touch in the world. The fact that it requires almost no training and maintenance is a key feature. Powerful

  • WAIT A MINUTE. Are we talking about the same Patriot missiles that barely managed to muster 40% success rate in Israel during the first(of many) gulf war? And these nice folks are making apps for soldiers that may using them to make critical decisions that may affect the lives of our soldiers? Obviously some people in our military have not read their history books.
  • I'll bet it won't have a camera!

  • Seriously, these need to be made in a none Chinese nation, IDEALLY, in America. This would offer a company like Motorola an opportunity to bring back manufacturing and then apply it to sales in America as well.

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