The role of the smartphone on the digital battlefield

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller

The Android smartphone and mobile tablet computer soon will play major roles on the digital battlefield , as government agencies join forces with the aerospace and defense industry to find ways to safeguard these technologies from hackers, eavesdroppers, and attempts steal sensitive information by reverse engineering.

U.S. government agencies -- particularly the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) are beginning to embrace commercially developed data-encryption algorithms , as well as software virtualization technologies that enable classified and unclassified information to run together on the same mobile device.

At the same time, industry is developing Wi Fi technologies to enable fighting forces on the front lines to exchange sensitive and classified information securely among handheld devices like tablet computers , smartphones, and wearable computers for situational awareness, targeting information, and intelligence gathering.



It's only a matter of time before a soldier on the front lines observes enemy movement, whips out a rugged smartphone from a vest pocket, takes a picture, and sends that information over a secure and mobile wireless local area network to warn colleagues nearby, as well as to send that time-critical information by satellite up the chain of command.

Military forces are eager to dip into the deep well of commercially developed mobile communications technology such as smartphones and tablets. Still, it almost doesn't matter whether the military wants to use this technology or not; the technology is coming, ready or not.

New recruits to the military forces expect to use the same technologies on the battlefield that they used every day in the civilian world, and the military -- even if it wanted to -- would be virtually powerless to stop this technological tidal wave.

Today, the military's major tasks in this regard are to find commercially developed mobile communications technology that offers good-enough capability, good-enough reliability, and good-enough security for use on the front lines.

The key phrase here is good enough. The days of gold-plated military-specific technologies are drawing to a close, and fast. The biggest and most immediate benefit of this, with little doubt, is involving smartphones, tablets, and other commercial mobile technology.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
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