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US Army Aims to Give All Soldiers a Smartphone

Military members may soon be able to “check in” on base-using their smartphones. Michael McCarthy, director of operations at the Brigade Modernization Command, Mission Command Complex, at Fort Bliss, Texas, is leading a project called “Connecting Soldiers to Digital Apps” with some of his colleagues, an attempt to give every soldier a smartphone with apps to be used for military purposes.

Ellen Messmer of Computerworld reports testing of commercial smartphones and tablets has been underway for several months at Fort Bliss by soldiers who take them along on field exercises and use them to perform administrative and training duties. McCarthy says Army analysts are working to discover whether smartphones and tablets could be adapted to meet the military’s specific security and operational considerations as well as whether assigned military radio frequencies can support a custom-designed, on-the-go network.

The Army is also hoping to establish its own wireless network almost anywhere in the world,  examining three new wireless technologies — Monax from Lockheed Martin, Oceus Networks (partnering with Northrop Grumman) and “cognitive radio” gear from xG Technology.

McCarthy told Messmer he is especially encouraged by xG’s “cognitive radio” gear, which uses “frequency hopping” to continually search for unused frequency spectrum. The Army plans to use its own developers as well as the commercial sector to develop any apps the military may need.

Pilot projects have shown a boost in GPAs among soldiers on base, the result of a friendly rivalry among soldiers who are able to access training material via smartphones. A deadline for a decision regarding military use of smartphones has not been set.

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