Army to test smartphones for offices, battlefields

By Ms. Chondra Perry (Army Medicine)May 27, 2010

Army testing smartphones
Sgt. Willie LeBeouf from Houston, Texas, assigned to the 5th Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Army Evaluation Task Force, selects a local map to display on a smart phone. The phone was loaded with a special
application to help Soldiers interview local... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 27, 2010) -- The Army is considering the use of smartphones in an effort to increase effectiveness and efficiency in both the administrative and operational environments.

"Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications" is a two-phase initiative with about eight pilots that are designed to determine the value of using commercial smartphone technology in administrative tasks and tactical operations.

"We want to determine if there is value added (with the use of smartphones) in doing administrative tasks and for delivering training content to our Soldiers," said Ed Mazzanti, deputy director of requirements integration within the Army Capabilities Integration Center.

Phase one of CSDA is focused on assessing the value of using smartphones for administrative tasks using digitized training content modules in the form of instructional videos, games, presentations and interactive instruction.

"The big effort right now is to see how much of the training content we currently have in digitized form can we make useful on a smartphone screen," said Mazzanti.

Phase two of CSDA is the tactical employment of the smartphones to determine if they are useful in an operational environment.

"...There is a lot of utility...that could be brought together in some very useful ways for the Army in a tactical environment," Mazzanti said.

A large part of phase two will be focused on ensuring that the device is secure.

A secure phone in a field environment would mean the ability to use the phone's display to provide Soldiers an easy way to report enemy activity, send intelligence reports or to provide Soldiers with live video, said Mazzanti.

"There is just any number of ways that we might be able to use the smartphone technology if we can make it operate in a secure manner and if we can generate an expeditionary cellular network that we can move on the battlefield with us," he said.

One of the benefits of having a smartphone is the ability to use cell phone applications to perform functions unrelated to making a call. Phase one and phase two of CSDA will consider the value of using cell-phone applications as a means to increase effectiveness.

"We can envision that there may be a lot of apps that either we will develop inside the Army or that others might develop for us that have utility for assisting in the execution of military tasks," Mazzanti said.

"Apps for the Army" is an example of the type of incentive that we want to use to get Soldiers involved in developing training content and applications, said Mazzanti.

"Nobody has better ideas on how to make the smartphones useful then the Soldiers themselves," he said. "They can envision things that somebody sitting at a desk might not think of."

"Apps for the Army" is a competition announced by the Army chief information officer in which Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians are demonstrating their software development skills by submitting applications that can add to the Army's current capabilities. Design winners will be recognized in August at the LandWarNet Conference and receive a portion of a cash pool totaling about $30,000.

There are also plans to implement college courses to teach information management Soldiers at Fort Gordon, Ga., the skills to be able to write applications for smartphones, said Mazzanti.

As a result of the CSDA effort, experts hope to see a reduction in the time it takes a Soldier to complete advanced individual training resulting in a cost savings for the Army, said Mazzanti.

Soldiers in the Army Experiment Task Force at Fort Bliss, Texas, will be among the first who will soon test the smartphones as a part of phase one of CSDA.

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