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U.S. Army May Issue Smartphones to Every Soldier

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December 17, 2010

U.S. Army May Issue Smartphones to Every Soldier

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

The smartphone may be as common an item for U.S. soldiers as a helmet, canteen or tent.

The U.S. Army wants to issue every one of its soldiers either an iPhone or Android (News - Alert)-based cell phone, according to a report from the Army Times.

Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, told the Army Times, the Army would issue the smartphones, just the way they issue any other equipment.

The use of smartphones marks a new phase in the new high-tech approach to battle and security. Connectivity is becoming increasingly important for the individual soldier.

The Army Times said that smartphones were already issued to some students in an Army program called Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications. CSDA will soon be testing smartphone use for war zones.

The Army in February will also give phones, network equipment and apps to a brigade under a combat team modernization program.  There will also be a test of any electronic devices that may be useful to soldiers, says the Army Times.

“We’re looking at everything from iPads to Kindles to Nook readers to mini-projectors,” said Mike McCarthy, director of the mission command complex of Future Force Integration Directorate at Fort Bliss.

The Army says it plans to release wireless Common Access Card readers for the iPhone (News - Alert) in January and for Android phones in April. With the access card, soldiers would be ensured of secure access to e-mail, contacts and calendars, reports the Army Times.

Eventually, the smartphones could be used during wartime. The Army Times predicts, “Soldiers could view real-time intelligence and video from unmanned systems overhead, and track friends and enemies on a dynamic map.”

But the Army first has to secure data and networks, says the Army Times.

The Army wants to be flexible on which hardware it uses. As it now stands, the Army does not plan to develop its own phone or change commercial phones a lot, says the Army Times. The Army says it “would rather make minor tweaks and ‘ruggedize’ existing phones,” says the Army Times. The Army wants to keep prices down.

In addition, buying software for the phones may change the current purchasing method used by the Army, Mark Bigham, a Raytheon (News - Alert) vice president, told the Army Times.

The newspaper explained that the Army may need to launch its own portal, something like the popular civilian iTunes apps store. That way, the Army could “track and pay for individual app downloads,” says the Army Times.

Smartphones may be deployed in war zones as soon as next year, Fox News reports. Cell phones would have diverse uses on the battlefield.

For example, TMCnet reports that the U.S. Army now uses the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) to disseminate video images to battlefields, but it may soon send streaming surveillance video images to soldiers’ cell phones. Such an option could be possible in two years because of advances in encryption software, TMCnet said.

“What we’re doing is fundamentally changing how soldiers access knowledge, information, training content and operational data,” McCarthy told the Army Times. “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.”

Ed Silverstein is a TMCnet contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Chris DiMarco

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