Army software engineers have developed a way to put aside squabbles between the Apple iOS and Google Android platforms, in the interest of U.S. military efforts.
On June 6 the Army concluded six weeks of testing smartphone and tablet solutions from a number of vendors, according to CNN, and it's expected to deploy a solution consisting of two mobile operating systems, which it believes could minimize software development needs and focused cyber attacks. The first military-approved smartphones could be in select soldiers' hands by the fourth quarter.
"Army software engineers have developed a way for applications to be ported between the two platforms with minimal effort," CNN reported, citing Army officials. "Other apps are being coded as mobile-optimized Web pages.
An Android-based device called the Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P), developed by MITRE, has also been tested, and this month its Mobile/Handheld Computing Environment development kit is scheduled to be released in hopes of encouraging third-party app development.
(MITRE also recently released a list of the 25 most dangerous software errors that can lead to compromises in app security.)
"All of the research dollars are out there in the commercial market. All of the best minds are at work in these companies to produce these smartphones and this software," Lt. Col Mark Daniels said in an article on the official Army site. "We don't want to rehash that, we want to leverage it. We want to take advantage of it and get it out to the Soldier in a structured fashion, so it can be implemented in a way that is secure and useful at the same time."
Currently, Daniels added, the Army is refining Mission Command apps, which include mapping, blue-force tracking, Tactical Ground Reporting and critical messaging between mission-command systems.
The military has found, for example, phone apps that overlay GPS information onto images enormously helpful, but until now encryption has been an issue.
According to the CNN report, there could be limited deployments this year that tie the smartphones to tactical radios necessary for encryption, and the Army is additionally testing portable cell tower solutions that could be used to create a secure network or where service is unreliable. (Testing iPhones in Texas and New Mexico, some Army soldiers found themselves without AT&T service.)
"It's a computer, it's a display unit, it's a video-out unit," said Ed Mazzanti, the Army director in charge of its mobile-device program, according to CNN. "Since it is a computer-based utility in a 7-ounce package, we just starting realizing there was a vast amount of potential."