Thursday, August 26, 2010

Android Apps to Lend a Hand on the Battlefield

    Android Apps to Lend a Hand on the Battlefield
  • Android apps may be great for workplace productivity and fun and games. But a tech-product firm is now developing Droid solutions that are expected to help military troops in the heat of conflict.
  • Android apps may be great for workplace productivity and fun and games. But a tech-product firm is now developing Droid solutions that are expected to help military troops in the heat of conflict.

    For the general public, top Android apps include those that allow you to manage work docs, grab stock quotes and integrate your Android device with iTunes.

    But for U.S. servicemen and women serving in global hot spots, Android mobile apps may soon provide a greater purpose—such as allowing a soldier to track down squad members after a battle to make sure they’re safe.

    At least that’s what PDT, a Lake Zurich, Ill.-based global product development firm, is working on. The firm views Android mobile apps as the next great tool for military customers, as the Android platform’s continued expansion of its hardware/software presence allows for customizable options that are well suited for Armed Forces operations.

    “The U.S. military’s embrace of Android has given us the tools necessary to make applications useful for soldiers,” says Jim Curtin, Manager for PDT’s Defense Systems Program, according to a PDT press release. “These tools will allow for intuitive action in stressful situations, and will be inventive compared to current and previous approaches.”

    Here are concepts now being hatched in the PDT lab:

    • ROVER Viewers: An app that would stream video feeds from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and fighter aircraft to dismounted soldiers. It would allow for the ability to record, playback, and other functions.

    • Situational Awareness Applications: These apps would let soldiers track and monitor the condition of other squad members in the thick of battle.

    • Squad TOE Management: This would be a logistics app that would monitor how much food/water/ammo is available for a squad in the field, and what the current consumption rate is.

    There are key factors driving the need for Android application development for the military community, Curtin says. First, Android’s flexible Linux structure allows developers to program powerful applications that can support a variety of interfaces—anything from disaster-relief optimization to supplier integration and wartime navigation. Android is also designed for control, which is always important when it comes to battlefield operations.

    “The absence of a closed-vendor application distribution system—along with the ability to apply modifications to program source code at will—has made Android the most transparent platform available,” Curtin says. “Additionally, potential government cost savings realized from the transition could see reinvestment in ground support where our troops need it most.”

    Also, the increasing scope and complexity of military software over the last decade had previously made it almost impossible to port existing methods to mobile environments. Android apps, however, have proven to be more adaptive to military needs.

    “Whereas before, most soldiers were stuck with a multitude of devices—each for a separate function—now they can combine them all into a single unit that fits neatly in their uniforms,” states Curtin. “They can rely on a tool that manages humanitarian and disaster relief missions, intelligence and surveillance concerns, translation, and planning/logistics coordination.”


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