The U.S. Army is making some pretty solid progress towards making a smartphone a part of the military lifestyle, it seems. Starting January, iPhones will be rolled out with Common Access Card readers to provide security services to military personnel, with Android smartphones following-up in April. Coverage in the field shouldn’t be a problem with commercial equipment used in conjunction with airborne wireless nodes. As for what the phones would actually be used for is pretty far-reaching: day-to-day scheduling, e-mail, contact management, and regulation lookup, as well as fancier stuff, like real-time satellite imaging, tracking the location of allied forces,
Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, said that “One of the options potentially is to make [smartphones] a piece of equipment in a soldier’s clothing bag,” in an interview on the subject. Such an concept is already being used in a pilot program called Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications under way in several garrisons. Mike McCarthy, a director for one of the agencies working on this project said “The day you sign on to be a soldier, you will be accessing information and knowledge in garrison and in an operational environment in a seamless manner. We’re using smartphone technologies to lead this.”
I’m a little confused why BlackBerry is nowhere to be seen in this interview, given their specialty in security – RIM even makes their own CAC readers after all, but the Army hasn’t set in stone any particular platform for their future plans. Rickey Smith of the Army Capabilities Integration Center said, “We’re not wedded to a specific piece of hardware. We are open to using Palm Treos, the Android, iPhone or whatever else is out there.” Buying the handsets at usual commercial prices will actually save the military some money on having to get custom-built solutions since they can just slap on ruggedized cases on just about any phone, but deploying applications will be difficult on something like the iPhone, whose sole portal for apps is iTunes; unless Apple were willing to work out something cheap and easy, Android and BlackBerry may be a better option for rolling out appropriate apps.
Anyway, there’s a lot to the military’s plan, and if you want some more details, be sure to check out the via link at Army Times.