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Army Smartphone Pilot Study to Wrap up in 6-8 Months

Photo: Elnur

The Army’s long-term vision supports putting a smartphone in the hands of every soldier, according to a recent Army News Service report. However, don’t expect to see BlackBerries and iPhones on the battlefield tomorrow, military officials said.

At a roundtable last week, Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center and one of the Army’s main evangelists of the smartphone idea, gave an update on the Army’s development of smartphone uses and applications.

Within the next six to eight months, the Army will wrap up a pilot study of smartphone use, Vane said, according to Army News Service.

“Whether or not we recommend that all soldiers carry a smartphone would be sort of out in front of the conclusions,” he said. “Though many people are already suggesting that that’s a possibility. Even I have said there’s a long-term vision here that would say if we can figure out the smart, cost-beneficial way of doing this, this probably does make sense in the long run.”

But, the long-term vision must overcome two obvious hurdles.

The first is a culture clash — between the Pentagon’s no-nonsense decision makers and number crunchers and the younger tech-savvy generation made up of what Vane called “digital natives.”

“People that haven’t grown up with [this technology] have a cultural challenge with the use of these technologies and the ability to pick one of these things up and operate them very quickly, to look at a smaller screen, use a different sort of keypad — all those sort of kind of things… there’s a cultural challenge that is part of the issue for the more senior people,” he said.

But, more substantially, there is the issue of security — transmitting sensitive data over cell networks.

Vane acknowledged the importance of security, but he also noted the value of communicating essential battlefield information.

In Afghanistan, many of the Armed Forces’ coalition partners and  adversaries, even, are already using cell phones to coordinate movements.

Soldiers in Afghanistan “look at their Afghan army compatriots or the Taliban guy, who has a cell phone, and then the Army guy looks at his MBITR or his 117G radio and we want to deny that capability to our own soldiers even through the enemy is using them?” Vane asked.

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