PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (Oct. 27, 2015) -- Software engineers at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, have developed a new mobile application that allows users to research laboratories across the Department of Defense.
The Defense Laboratory Enterprise eSmartbook application, which is open to the public and available on both Apple and Android devices, was designed and developed in-house at the ARDEC Armament Software Engineering Center, or SEC, through coordination with the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Research and Engineering) Defense Laboratory Office.
It contains facts and media about each laboratory, as well as an RSS news feed that pulls science and technology articles from across the Defense Laboratory Enterprise.
The app improves upon information previously provided as a portable document file, or PDF, and hard, printed copy.
"We approached the Defense Laboratory Office and suggested to create a mobile application. It can be updated over the air and bring in news stories from news feeds across the DoD," said Dr. Bernard Reger, associate for business planning and development for the Armament SEC.
Labs can quickly update information when changes occur in their organizations, an advantage of the app over traditional print publications.
"Giving out information that's five years old can be dangerous in some cases and just not useful," Reger said. "The eSmartbook is more efficient, modern, and easily updated. As a partner to the app, we developed a web application for the labs to log in and update their data. As a lab grows into new research areas, that information will be available. The labs control the information and is cleared for public release."
Reger said he hopes that the app will facilitate transparency and knowledge sharing through the Department of Defense, the government, and the general public.
"The public wonders, 'What do you do here?' Using the app, you can read about their history and what kind of work they do," he said.
He said such information could be beneficial for college students looking for a job, or even for government personnel looking to collaborate with other labs.
"I always thought that the eSmartbook is good for promoting collaboration between different labs," said Joe Smith, Armament SEC engineer.
"An engineer might not know what the other labs do, and it may be difficult to find out," Smith said. "For instance, if I have an idea for something to help our Soldiers, I have to search around for someone that can help with the new technology. I have to call around, because that information may not be readily available. Some ideas never get off the ground because of it."
Our allies can use the app to foster collaboration, too.
The eSmartbook was part of the first DoD Lab Day on display at the Pentagon this past May.
"At DoD Lab Day, representatives of foreign embassies and their military thought it was interesting that they could use the eSmartbook to finds labs to potentially work with," Smith said.
Once the data has been downloaded to the app, it's accessible without an internet connection. This allows the app to be used in conference rooms, airplanes, or anywhere the user may be.
ARMAMENT SOFTWARE ENGINEERING CENTER
"From the Armament SEC's point of view, the technology we used to create the eSmartbook is not just a one-time shot," Reger said. "This is a platform we've developed. If another organization wants to have an electronic Smartbook of their capabilities, their facilities, or their projects - we'll be able to use that platform to create something for them.
"That's where our CMMI [Capability Maturity Model Integration] maturity level five experience comes into play - to be able to design something modular enough to be able to reuse it without having to start all the way back at square one," he said.
This same approach has been able to reduce the cost of software development and sustainment of several major programs.
ARDEC's Armament SEC serves the U.S. Soldier, Army, DoD, and other customers as a Center of Excellence for Software Engineering and Software Acquisition support services for weapon systems, training devices, and combat support systems throughout the entire system life cycle.
The Armament SEC is the only Army organization appraised at CMMI level 5. CMMI level 5 is a certification that shows an organization's standards for developing software are done in the most mature way possible. The result is products with fewer defects and lower costs.
"We have been refining and optimizing our processes for over a decade," Reger said. "At the software center we will help support a software intensive program from cradle to grave."
In addition to the eSmartbook, the Armament SEC supports programs that range from crew-served weapons to networked munitions to direct fire weapon systems.
MOBILE APP CENTER
"Mobile devices and mobile apps began growing in the Army a few years ago," Smith said. "Our Soldiers are going to get more of them because the Army is looking to save equipment weight and size."
To create a process to develop and deliver apps, the Army created three Mobile Application Centers:
* Training and Doctrine Command
* U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center and the Communications-Electronics Command
Together, they comprise the Coalition of Army Mobile Applications Centers, or CAMAC.
Army apps need to be secure and non-hackable.
"We understand how to do that for traditional army systems very well. When it comes to quickly developing an app and releasing it to the warfighter, there's an extra risk. We have to figure out how to secure those apps," Reger said.
The Armament SEC has been working with the Army's chief information officer, or CIO, G-6 and the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, on a process to determine if an app is secure, then help make it available on a mobile app store.
"We're participating in the effort to establish the process for analyzing mobile applications and to approve applications for use on a government device," Reger said. "We're working within the Army and DISA so mobile apps can get approved and released much easier and quicker so that people can make use of them."
The U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.