US Army wants soldiers to have advanced smartphones, wireless technology


Smartphone apps are already showing their value in pilot projects involving training of soldiers that includes making material available via smartphones that soldiers carry around on base. This is boosting their grade-point averages when taking Army exams, apparently because the smartphones help spur a little competition among soldiers, almost like a video game, says McCarthy. "Before, we had power-point handouts," he adds, which wasn't always regarded as a compelling training format.

But are smartphones and tablets tough enough in terms of security and ruggedness to join the Army?

That's still a big question. The National Security Agency (NSA), America's high-tech spy agency which also plays a role in Department of Defense security, , such as chipsets for encryption that could be certified for use in smartphones.

The military is also looking at how biometrics, including voice, face or iris scans, could be used with smartphones to validate identity; one option under consideration is a 3G biometric Intel platform. "We want to find out what technology works best and what technology soldiers prefer to use," McCarthy says.

The Army has no set deadline for making a decision on smartphones, and recognizes the high-tech industry, now flooding the world with its endless variety of hand-held devices, could come up with radical improvements in a short time span. If there's anything that does give the military pause, it's that most smartphones and tablets are manufactured outside the U.S., including in nations that are not even officially American allies. "It's a concern," says McCarthy, adding that the military is sharing those concerns with the smartphone and tablet manufacturers involved.