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Army Plots Its Smartphone Strategy 125

Posted by samzenpus
from the angry-army-birds dept.
gManZboy writes "What kind of smartphone should a soldier have? Ahead of the impending expiration of two communications contracts, the Army's 5th Signal Command is prepping for the possibility of buying thousands of mobile devices. An RFI asks for BlackBerrys, 'emerging smartphones included but not limited to 4G devices such as Androids [and] iPhones,' tablet computers, and wireless broadband access devices. Also in the Army mobile vision: an apps marketplace."
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Army Plots Its Smartphone Strategy

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Should soldiers carry homing beacons?
    http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2011-05-27/ [dilbert.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 13, 2011 @05:56PM (#38043356)

    Blackberry - designed by untrustworthy Canadians
    Android - based on Linux which was written by communists
    iPhone - designed by Apple in California

    • by Jimme Blue (1683902) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @06:02PM (#38043402)

      Blackberry - designed by untrustworthy Canadians
      Android - based on Linux which was written by communists
      iPhone - designed by Apple in California

      I think by this logic it's going to have to go to Microsoft (unfortunately):
        - Blackberry => Canadians => socialists => communists
        - Android => Linux => communists
        - iPhone => Apple => California => communists

        - LatestMicrosoftPhoneSoftware => Microsoft => Washington => Confused With Washington, DC => Pentagon => DoD => Command Driven Economy => Shit.......Never mind.

      iPhones win by default!

      • by meerling (1487879)
        Whatever it ends up being, it won't be an iphone. The government, and especially the military don't want someone else telling them how to do things, and the approval process for istuff apps isn't going to fly with them either.

        If they were all jailbroken and approved government security and encryption software was preloaded, then maybe...
        • by a.phoenicis (1026040) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @06:27PM (#38043528)
          Clearly, you don't know much about the iOS Dev environment. Under Apple's current development terms, organizations can already set up and deploy to their own privately managed App Distribution systems for their own privately signed devices. This would be no different.
          • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @07:17PM (#38043796) Journal

            Clearly he doesn't know much about the DoD or Apple either. This kind of conversation usually goes something like this:

            DoD: Hello, we have a basically unlimited pile of money.
            Apple: Hmm. Money, you say? We collect that stuff, can we have some?
            DoD: We'd like a hundred thousand iPhones, a signing key that allows us to deploy any software onto them, and the source code for review.
            Apple: Yes, yes, whatever. How much money were we talking about?
            DoD: A really big pile.
            Apple: Will a signature in blood be okay? We have some new interns...

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Being that DoD guy, you don't understand how much money it costs to see the code, and how screwed up our programs are. Unlikely that we'll be able to do that. I suspect that blackberry will win by default; it already has the corporate control crap baked in.

              • Microsoft allows the DoD to see their code for Windows and Office and has since the mid '90s. I doubt that Apple would charge more than them...
      • by Sparx139 (1460489)
        Replying to undo bad moderation, please ignore
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ProfM (91314)
      The US military has already embraced Linux.

      Army National Guard Using Linux [linuxjournal.com]

      My guess is that they'll go Android, simply for the fact they CAN change and update the OS to be more secure than it currently is.

      • by GauteL (29207) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @06:30PM (#38043544)

        Also Apple is very unlikely to agree to make custom military units with whatever requirements the military has. It's just not their thing.

        They'll be better served customising Android and should have no trouble finding a hardware vendor.

        As a side note, knowing the military the requirements will be decided by committee, resulting in something in that weighs 5 pounds to satisfy all the criteria.

        • by Macrat (638047) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @07:02PM (#38043712)

          Also Apple is very unlikely to agree to make custom military units with whatever requirements the military has. It's just not their thing.

          Apple already makes custom builds of laptops without cameras per 3 letter agency security requirements.

        • I don't know, that Commando phone running Android looks tough enough to beat the crap out of any pansy iPhone or Black-N-Blue berry.

        • by NiteShaed (315799)

          Also Apple is very unlikely to agree to make custom military units with whatever requirements the military has. It's just not their thing.

          Well, not saying you're wrong about them being willing to do special builds now, but there's the Black Mac [wired.com], which may have been made by Apple (although last time I heard, nobody was completely sure).

        • by nobodie (1555367)

          Not just the army, i was watching the copier repair drone work on one of our copiers for the umpteenth time. He had this ginormous brick of a phone sitting on the copier,i asked about it. he said they used to have blackberries, but then the front office decided to get them all new phones, everyone was excited until they dropped this brick on them. now they use their android phones for work since it is easier than the POS that the company provided.

          Oh yeah, tell me how smart private industry is, please tell m

      • Well, so far, Android hasn't opened up its source code, so the DoD would have to explicitly ask them to provide it. I doubt iPhone, since the DoD might prefer their own walled garden, rather than Apple's. M$ is out of the question, since they may not want standard PC apps from anywhere infecting their phones. Blackberry - doubtful, since they may not want to experience an outage if RIM's servers go down.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Blackberry - designed by untrustworthy Canadians

      Actually, Blackberries have been tested & certified by the US govt, NATO, et al for many, many years:

      http://us.blackberry.com/ataglance/security/certifications.jsp [blackberry.com]

      Android & iphone have been certified by... nobody.

      Beyond blackberry there is the sectera edge: http://www.gdc4s.com/content/detail.cfm?item=32640fd9-0213-4330-a742-55106fbaff32 [gdc4s.com]

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        Beyond blackberry there is the sectera edge

        Great. General Dynamics builds a $3000.00 Blackberry for the US Military that uses SIPRnet, which ends up being the source of a lot of the Wikileaks.

        We get to hear how there has to be cuts in Medicare, but god forbid we do anything to negatively impact General Dynamics' bottom line.

        Oh, and DOD? "SIPRnet"? Really? When you put the word "secret" into the name it kind of defeats the whole purpose.

      • A customised version of Android on the Dell Streak [tabtimes.com] has been certified by the DoD.

        • A customised version of Android on the Dell Streak [tabtimes.com] has been certified by the DoD.

          Ah, makes sense. Certify the discontinued [androidcentral.com] product.

          USA! USA! All the Way!

    • iPhone - designed by Apple in California

      Yes, but it's made in China...

    • ...all of which are made in communist China by factories indirectly owned by the State.
    • by treeves (963993)

      "iPhone - designed by Apple in California"

      but actually made by Chinese Communists.

      No options left.

      Damn.

    • by sam0vi (985269)

      Blackberry - designed by untrustworthy Canadians
      Android - based on Linux which was written by communists
      iPhone - designed by Apple in California

      Yet they are all manufactured in China.... mmmmmm /*scratches head*/

  • by DarkFencer (260473) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @05:57PM (#38043366)

    Whatever they get, they need to have vastly increased battery life over the consumer versions.

    Possibly a physical switch to turn off all transmissions as well (so it can be QUICKLY turned off).

    • Whatever they have ;-) Its already been done, and I doubt consumers sloths such as ourselves will ever have any insight to the full depth of military technology.
      • by chrb (1083577) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @09:35PM (#38044530)
        On the contrary, the technology that the ordinary troops use is dated, heavy and expensive. Everything is custom-built and procured by a single buyer in a pretty non-competitive tendering market. Example: handheld GPS receiver [wikipedia.org], $2000 per unit, low resolution grayscale LCD, heavy on batteries etc. If it was released on the consumer market nobody would buy it. The only advantage it might have is being rugged, but its MTBF is listed at 5000 hours which isn't that great, plus consumer units like the Garmin Vista series are quite rugged and waterproof and have many other advantages.
        • by mjwx (966435) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @11:16PM (#38045006)

          On the contrary, the technology that the ordinary troops use is dated, heavy and expensive.

          And meets the very specific requirements of the military.

          The army wont be taking this stuff around suburbia in big aircon'd SUV's. They'll be taking it to the worst places on earth, 45 C heat, minus 20 C cold, mud, torrential rain, sandstorms and that's on a good day. The equipment will need to survive being dropped, thrown, sat on, fell on and manhandled by an organisation who doesn't have the word subtlety in it's vocabulary.

          Above this, it needs to work, first time, every time after being dropped in the mud, blasted by sand, trod on and thrown. This is why a simple GPS unit weights 3 KG. Also it needs to be deadly accurate, the Garmin units just aren't that accurate, They rely on a lot of guesswork to plot your position and their sample rate is crap compared to a professional Trimble GPS unit. An expensive Magellan unit off the shelf costs $500 and has an inaccuracy of 3-5 metres, a Trimble GeoXH or GeoXT has an inaccuracy of 10-50 CM but they start at $3000 each (start at, they go past $7500). Trimble's are what we use for professional field work, where we need to record it down to the nearest metre or more.

          Consumer units are neither rugged enough, nor accurate enough for military, hell, most wont survive a day with a geologist, let alone a marine.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            This mentality is fucked and represents a large portion of why American Military spending is so outlandishly expensive.

            For every "hell and back again" application, there are 100 guys working support roles in an air conditioned office. The F-35 mentality of "economies of scale" by turning every acquisition in to a feature bloated swiss army knife is the remaining reason.

            The Military doesn't need custom cell phones. It needs a supply chain for disposable cell phones that they can replace easily if they break.

            • by mjwx (966435)

              The Military doesn't need custom cell phones. It needs a supply chain for disposable cell phones that they can replace easily if they break.

              This is a terrible idea as it promotes more waste, a problem the US military already has. Cheap disposable phones are a nightmare for any organisation, I once worked for a company who had this philosophy, the disposable phones cost more then getting proper phones because people would just keep losing/breaking them.

              Now even in peace time there are a shit load of pl

            • The Military doesn't need custom cell phones. It needs a supply chain for disposable cell phones that they can replace easily if they break.

              Becuase, Lord knows, there will always be a supply depot right there to hand you another one.

              Face it, in combat you need equipment that WORKS, all the time, in spite of whatever abuse might be thrown at it.

    • And field replaceable batteries. So that you can bring extras and swap them YOURSELF.

      Without the need for specialized tools.

    • I don't think they're taking them into combat. They already have advanced communications equipment, the last thing they'd do is rely upon foreign commercial networks or set up their own network with towers that can be sniped from a considerable distance away. I assume they're for non-combat communications, for example recalling off-duty soldiers from leave. If all US soldiers carried the same model of phone around, their enemies would presumably develop means of detecting their signal output, with at lea
      • Army reality check (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        As a former soldier I can tell you this: there is no coherent strategy. This is almost certainly 80-90% fail.
        For non-deployed soldier, there is no need for a government issued smartphone because, just like everyone else, soldiers own personal smartphones already.
        Unless of course, the phone is used only for official business and the government doesn't trust your personally owned phone with it.

        While you're deployed it's different, mainly in that your own phone probably won't work, since there are no cell tow

    • by chrb (1083577)

      TFA: "DISA Tuesday issued a request for information to do market research ahead of the impending expiration of two communications contracts now in place. It plans to consolidate the existing contracts into a new contract that will provide wireless services and hardware to soldiers across Europe."

      This is mobile phones and a data plan for U.S. soldiers based in Europe. It is not for war zones or hostile territory. Reliance on enemy-controlled phone networks during war time is seen as something of a liabilit

  • A mil spec N950 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Teun (17872) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @06:02PM (#38043404) Homepage
    A final chance for the best phone ever, the mil spec N950ms.

    And I always thought MS stood for unreliable...

    • Re:A mil spec N950 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 13, 2011 @06:33PM (#38043560)

      Definitely. Nokia definitely cares about construction and build quality. They subject their phones to rigorous abuse. There's a youtube video somewhere of their quality testing. squished on a press repeatedly, dropped repeatedly.

      I searched for the official Nokia Labs one from a year ago but couldn't find it.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HicdXV_47V8 [youtube.com]

        Giz (sorry!) also has a story about it. http://gizmodo.com/5094602/a-look-at-the-nokia-damage-test-labs [gizmodo.com]

      An n950 is already the pocket equivalent of a Panasonic ToughBook. They may not be running quadcores and have the most beautiful screens ( or whatever the spec nerd are going crazy for this week) but a Nokia is guaranteed to be built like a tank.

      Contrast that to a flimsy samsung/motorola android or an iphone that is absolutely destroyed when it gets dropped onto some rocks. It should be no question if you're looking only at durability in a mass produced consumer smartphone.

      None of that matters though. The decision on what the military uses will always be decided on what state the money will go to, or what lobby payed the most for someone's campaign. So, it will probably be something from AT&T. probably an iphone with a frickin' bumper.

      • by Bill Dog (726542)

        An n950 is already the pocket equivalent of a Panasonic ToughBook.

        Or maybe the pocket equivalent of a ToughPad [extremetech.com].

      • by jezwel (2451108)
        From personal (accidental) testing I can affirm that the Nokia N8 has a excellent chance of being undamaged even when repeatedly falling from the top of a fridge onto kitchen tiles; or dropped onto concrete, then kicked; or squished in a back pocket between my @ss and hard bleachers.

        All events that have signficantly damaged or destroyed other phones... :|

        From recent experience it also seems that where there is a gathered population of 7+ iPhones, there will be one with a broken screen. I mean broken, not w

        • I'll add another anecdote here. Nokia 6110 Navigator, dropped onto concrete from 1.5m. Survived just fine. In an unrelated incident a few months later, I left it in my shorts when I put them through the washing machine. The phone was switched on at the time, went through a full warm-wash cycle, then got hung on the clothesline to dry. When I eventually found it, I pulled the back off the phone and laid it out to dry for a few days. Not only did it still work, the GPS worked, both cameras worked. If anythi

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @06:17PM (#38043480)

    There's an app for that!

  • None (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Billly Gates (198444) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @06:17PM (#38043482) Journal

    They can be tracked complete with GPS and can be used to record sensitive information.

    I have been reading Al Jazeera with the news of Libya last summer and cell phones were a problem. Basically loyalist spies would txt the GPS specs to Loyalists in Walid and Sirte, and whenever they went in the enemy was already there ambusing the rebels.

    Even not I wonder how easy it is to hack them. China has a keen interest and have the best hacking elite group in the world that have inflitrated Los Almos and even satelites.

    With Army equipment you know who made it and the ins and outs compared to a cell phone with knows what abilities it has obscured away.

    • I seriously doubt these are for use in combat or combat zones - but they *would* be useful as hell stateside and in garrison.

    • by definate (876684)

      Giving phones with GPS to one group or not, does not stop an entirely different group from still having a phone with GPS.

      Your logic is terrible. Back to remedial maths with you.

  • by wkcole (644783) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @06:19PM (#38043490)
    Due to a design flaw, the Android root CA trust database cannot be changed without reflashing the phone in currently available versions of Android. Given the way the military handles their PKI, this makes existing Android devices infeasible. Android 4 is supposed to address this.
    • by Rich0 (548339) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @06:48PM (#38043638) Homepage

      There isn't a single phone on the market that runs "Android" - there are dozens of different models that each run some OS that is 99% android and 1% something else (if nothing else device drivers - the open source version of Android can't actually run on any production phone).

      Apple is a bit different since they sell a phone, and not an operating system.

      When the Army puts this out for bid it won't be to an OS vendor - it will be to a phone vendor (yes, I know Google owns Motorola). Whether or not Android 4 addresses this issue out of the box you can bet that vendors responding to the bid will factor in the need to address this feature if it is in the RFP.

      When the Military standardizes it won't be on iOS or Android - it will be on Vendor A model B. I suspect that even if they picked Apple they wouldn't be buying the consumer product per se.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      Not really unfeasible ... reflashing an Android phone really just requires selecting an image from an application and rebooting. It shouldn't be required, but it's a pretty trivial problem to resolve.
      • Not really unfeasible ... reflashing an Android phone really just requires selecting an image from an application and rebooting. It shouldn't be required, but it's a pretty trivial problem to resolve.

        Military uses user based certs. This means that every time a user throughout the entire DoD organization is fired/quits/change jobs/changes names/etc. They have their certificate revoked. This means they are probably revoking hundreds of certificates per day. Generally, you need to update your CRLs about once a week at a minimum, though they prefer that applications use OCSP, where a query is sent in real time to the CA to see if the cert has been revoked for this reason. So, flashing isn't a very reas

  • I don't think that 4 means what the United States Army apparently thinks it means...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.military.com/news/article/army-looks-to-smart-phone-for-nett-warrior.html

  • or at best, DoD related bloat. The army already has numerous proprietary and secure communications technologies
    that rely on field-tested technology already integrated well with existing systems. Considering the average warhawk's propensity to
    wax prophetic on a war with china, its obligatory to also consider what would happen to these HTC, Samsung, and other devices regardless
    of operating system once operated in a country with vastly more knowledge of the aformentioned cellular devices than our militar
  • I don't know the exact details but it has. Very few people know for exactly what.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 13, 2011 @07:44PM (#38043938)

    Every single attempt the Army has made to give its soldiers the same capabilities as a 13 year-old girl with an iPhone in 2007 has produced hilarious results. There was Future Force Warrior, Future Soldier, a dozen versions of Land Warrior, which were rolled into half a dozen versions of Nett Warrior. Nett Warrior -- the most recent attempt to waste gobs of taxpayer money -- is notable for producing this marvel of design elegance.

    I give you, the Nett Warrior End User Device [wired.com]:

    Believe it or not, that's the smallest, lightest, and most elegant system the Army has come up with yet. It's the first device to break with their tradition of attaching as many awkwardly shaped objects as possible to the soldier's head.

    I can't wait to see how our brilliant and effective military contracting system interprets the smartphone.

  • Touchscreen? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Sunday November 13, 2011 @08:12PM (#38044070) Homepage Journal
    It might just be me, but a touchscreen-only phone seems like it might be less than ideal for a soldier. I would think that actual buttons would be a better idea for people who might be wearing various types of hand gear in varied conditions.
    • by Phurge (1112105)

      Bingo!

      Can I get a "phone that just makes calls" post?

      • Can I get a "phone that just makes calls" post?

        Well, the article is about the Army's smartphone strategy. So I think that suggestion might fall short of the criteria.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Most phone buttons wouldn't be acceptable in the military as they could jam up with dirt, mud, or blood; but a touch screen does make for an easy to clean fairly well sealed interface. Not the best for use with gloves though.
  • ... there is only one choice: the Pip-Boy 3000! This is now a real thing, being developed by LG Display, Universal Display and L-3 Display Systems UDC, and tested in the field: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-10/15/wrist-mounted-computers [wired.co.uk] How cool is that?
  • Awesome. Fire Direction simplified through a DOD port of Angry Birds.

    You could have the different ordinance represented by the Founding Fathers and just swap the pigs out with a pic of the terrorist du jour.

  • What is the name of the big missile that targets the RF signal
    from radar? So what keeps an RF signal seeking
    missile or other device from causing problems.

    A soldier should not have a smart phone or any other
    radio linked phone while in the field. The RF signature of
    a passive RF receiver IED trigger is so tiny...

    Then there is the issue of cameras....

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