Mobile Interoperability is Imperative for Military
March 23, 2011 — 10:08am ET | By Molly Bernhart Walker
The armed services need interoperable mobile technology, stressed military leaders while speaking at the March 17 AFCEA DC Next-Gen Mobile Technologies Symposium.
“We’ve talked about interoperability over many years and trying to get our larger units to be interoperable at brigade level, division level and higher. But increasingly, the need is to be interoperable at that individual soldier level,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director Army Integration Center and deputy commanding general, Futures U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Interoperability “increasingly important in a budget constrained environment,” said Vane,
The Army needs mobile devices with both 3G and 4G capabilities, in order to leverage commercial networks available where warfighters are deployed, he said. If devices are interoperable across a variety of networks it will be that much easier to communicate with coalition forces and allies, said Vane.
What’s more, a single mobile device that can connect in a variety of ways will help streamline small, deployed units. While overall capability has improved–more body armor, better individual communications, night vision–many of these gains have “been done through the acquisition community separately. And there’s not an ability to look holistically at the soldier and that small unit to ensure we’ve got the trades right,” said Vane.
As a result, the average soldier now carries somewhere between 130 and 140 pounds. “We need to get that weight down,” said Vane. “The key modernizing enabler [for warfighters], in my opinion, is a network with its applications on the move,” he said.
These applications that enable military personnel also need to be interoperable, said Lt. Gen. William Lord, chief of warfighter integration and chief information officer, Air Force. “Agnostic mobility” requires IT to think about interoperability on the front end, rather than “trying to harmonize at the end of the spear.”
Creating a platform-agnostic application is easier said than done, said Lt. Col. Gregory Motes, chief of the mobile applications branch, Army Signal Center of Excellence & Fort Gordon. One reason most of the Apps for the Army were built on Apple’s iOS platform is because developers could predict exactly how the app would look and act on every Apple device, he said. The variety of Android and RIM devices make it difficult to develop an app that performs consistently.
Lord also expressed a need for secure, virtualized devices that would allow troops to toggle between their personal and warfighter persona. A single device to meet troops’ operational and personal needs would be both a powerful tool for combat and morale, he said. Vane added that helping soldiers feel more connected to friends and family, through mobile usage, could help curb depression and suicide rates.