Mobile In The Military

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How iDevices are changing Washington and the Pentagon

Apple's iPhone and iPad are turning up all over the Washington Beltway, from the corridors of power on Capitol Hill and the White House to the military strongholds of the Pentagon - namely, the Army and Air Force.

Mobile in the military

Mobile in the military

Indeed, the iPhone and iPad have made arguably as big an impact across the public sector of the U.S. Federal Government as they have across the general populace. This is not surprising, as the government represents a microcosm of society with multiple agencies, rep­resenting everything from agriculture to health care, and from economic policy to national defense.

The introduction of the iPhone in June of 2007 (coupled with Google's Android Open Handset Alliance) helped to create a phenomenon called the "consumerization of information technology (IT)" or "technology populism." This is an ever-increasing trend in which people bring their powerful consumer devices into the workplace, and thus merge their "real life" with their work life.

People are becoming accustomed to having more computational power in their hands in a variety of form factors, which they depend on for both personal and business tasks. The separation between work and personal IT tools has been blurred; people find their iPhones and iPads so indispensable that they are bringing them into work and demanding that IT departments support them.

This phenomenon shows no sign of abating and poses a serious challenge to traditional IT departments. The customary purpose for a centralized IT department was to issue and centrally manage all "client" devices (including PCs, PDAs, cell phones, smartphones, and other computing resources).This model served companies well for decades and insured a consistent user experience.

Indeed, the iPhone and iPad have made arguably as big an impact across the public sector of the U.S.

Indeed, the iPhone and iPad have made arguably as big an impact across the public sector of the U.S.

The iPhone was a game changer and the introduction of the iPad accelerated things even further. It's not uncommon to go to meetings where the customary pad of paper or laptop PC has been replaced by a tablet. Due to the beauty of digitization, notes can now be entered into the iPad once and copied or saved for later use. This eliminates the need for transcription of written notes and the inherent errors that come into play when one is retyping information. Besides the now-pedestrian use of the iPad for taking notes, people all over the Beltway are finding new, interesting, and compelling uses for the technology.

According to Michael T. McCarthy, Director of Operations and Program Manager for the Army's Brigade Modernization Command, "The Army recognized the value of using tablet devices early in our examination of smartphones and devices for the Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications project. In a classroom or training environment, the full-sized devices have proven to be an exceptional tool for the student soldiers. In an operational environment, size, weight, and power are critical elements for any device. Soldiers tell us that they need a smaller tablet. As a consequence of their recommendations, we are really looking forward to putting the iPad mini into their hands and giving it a realistic workout."

Below are just a few examples of how the iPhone and iPad are used by the U.S. military:

Apps for the army

The U.S. Army's "Apps for the Army" program kicked off as an app-development contest open to soldiers and Army Civilians. The Army asked developers to come up with interesting and useful software applications for Apple and Android devices in certain categories related to their daily work, including morale, wel­fare, and recreation: Army mission; information access; and location awareness and training.

The idea is that by developing their own apps, the Army can speed up the app- development process and therefore save money.

According to the Army, about 140 individuals or teams signed up to participate in the program, which created a first round of about 53 applications. Of the 53 submitted, 25 got through the certification process.

"We say that we are looking for an application to do XYZ, and we give them 30 days to come back and show us what they have," says former Army CIO Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson. "We give them 60 more days to develop it, and in 90 days we have an app," Sorenson said.

Maj. Gregory Motes, Capt. Christopher Braunstein, and Capt. Stacey Osborn of the Army Signal Center at Fort Gordon, GA, worked as a team to develop four applications for the contest. Their Physical Training Program app for the iPhone helps soldiers develop their own training regimen based on the Army's new Physical Readiness Training program.

“We took a look at the new training manual and we sat down as a group and started to break it apart - we didn't want to put a wall of words, a PDF into an application," Motes said.

The final product was an app that creates a training regimen for individual soldiers, using videos and still images to fully demonstrate how various exercises should be done.

"We saw this as a new way that training manuals could be in the future,” Motes said. "Some people learn better by reading words and looking at pictures, and some people appreciate the videos."

From the 53 applications submitted to the Apps for the Army challenge, 15 winners were chosen - a first, second, and third-place winner in each of five categories. Additionally, 10 “honorable mentions" were named.

Winning applications included: The Physical Training Program, developed by Maj. Gregory Motes, Capt. Christopher Braunstein, and Capt. Stacey Os­born of the Army Signal Center, Ft. Gor­don, GA. Telehealth Mood Tracker, developed by Robert Kayl, Scott Swim, and Robert Van Gorkom of the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA. The Disaster Relief app, developed by Andrew Jenkins and Alex Ly of the Engineer Research and Development Center, Alex­andria, VA. The Movement Projection app, developed by Luke Catania of the Engineer Research and Development Center, Alexandria, VA; and The New Recruit app, developed by Thomas Maroulis of Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, Picatinny Arsenal, NJ.

Note: These apps are not intended for consumer use. Soldiers wishing to see the apps developed in the Apps for the Army challenge can do so through this URL:

Telehealth Mood Tracker

Telehealth Mood Tracker

The Movement Projection

The Movement Projection

The New Recruit app

The New Recruit app

Air force flight bags

Air Mobility Command (AMC), one of the Major Commands or MAJCOMs of the U.S. Air Force, put out a request for proposal to procure as many as 18,000 iPad 2s for use by pilots, navigators, trainers, and ground personnel.

The idea is that iPads can replace traditional paper-based Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) that are very heavy (roughly 70 pounds per aircraft) and become antiquated very quickly (AMC requires flying charts to be updated every 28 days). AMC estimates that iPads will eliminate $1.77 million in printing costs of the EFB manual, plus an additional $3.28 million per year in printing costs for maps and charts. The transition will also save 22,000 man-hours, and $770 thousand in yearly fuel costs.

In addition, using iPads can save physical space in crammed cockpits. "With limited space in the cockpit and the amount of paper that each crew has to manage, it can quickly become controlled chaos," said Maj. Pete Brichenough, who heads AMC's EFB test. "An EFB could solve this issue by putting all the information in one place to be recalled and updated almost immediately."

AMC decided early on that the iPad was the best solution for a paperless EFB. According to EFB Requirements Manager Rich Quidgoen, the biggest hurdle in getting Apple technology was overcoming outdated policy.

Only a few hundred iPads were fielded at first. The reason for the slow start in field deployment had to do with information assurance/security concerns related to a piece of software developed in Russia that is onboard these devices. The software is a PDF reader called GoodReader (iPad version: $4.99,

GoodReader for iPad

GoodReader for iPad

The Army's Mike McCarthy, one of the biggest proponents for IT modernization and the use of consumer devices across the Department of Defense, noted, "We only have one opportunity to get the information security issues right for the use of mobile devices. We are looking for solutions that will provide security to the sources of data as well as the users of data. We must provide for the protection of data at rest, in transit, as well as in process. We are looking at a number of solutions, also with an eye on being able to secure the supply chain from beginning to end. Without these measures in place, we are potentially putting our soldiers at risk, and that is something we are unwilling to do."

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