Killer apps: Army embraces iPod touch

The rap on the iPhone and iPod touch is that it's chiefly an entertainment device. (After all the software keyboard is damn irritating.

The rap on the iPhone and iPod touch is that it's chiefly an entertainment device. (After all the software keyboard is damn irritating.) But the Army doesn't think so. Newsweek reports that the military is very high on the touch, since it's priced at about a third the price of an iPhone. Since it's a app platform, the Army can update soldiers' capabilities with the touch of a button and touch lets soldiers network their intelligence.

Next Wave Systems in Indiana, is expected to release iPhone software that would enable a soldier to snap a picture of a street sign and, in a few moments, receive intelligence uploaded by other soldiers (the information would be linked by the words on the street sign). This could include information about local water quality or the name and photograph of a local insurgent sympathizer. The U.S. Marine Corps is funding an application for Apple devices that would allow soldiers to upload photographs of detained suspects, along with written reports, into a biometric database. The software could match faces, making it easier to track suspects after they're released.

More apps will:

  • display aerial video from drones;
  • teleconference with intelligence agents across the globe.
  • provide a "ballistics calculator" for snipers.
  • remote-control a bomb-disposal robot (tilting the iPod steers the robot)
  • teach military observers appropriate etiquette for interacting with tribal leader
  • translate spoken and written translations of Arabic, Kurdish and two Afghan languages, and show animated graphics of accompanying gestures and body language.

I think it's high time Defense embraced consumer market devices and funding small developers to create the secure apps the military needs. The old era -- of paying Lockheed and Grumman millions to create devices that don't work and are wildly more expensive than mass-market products -- is over.