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U.S. Army Plans to Test Apple and Android Apps for Combat

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In an effort to keep up with the times while improving the efficiency of battle, the U.S. Army will begin desert-testing Android apps, tablets and iPhone technologies. Of course, the devices the military is utilizing will be more advanced and certainly more evolved than a typical smartphone or iPad unit.

If successful, troops may gain access to helpful digital information right on the battlefield, allowing for more efficient military operations. The Wall Street Journal has more:

The Army doesn't have a plan to give every soldier a smartphone. But Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, recently said that if the devices proved themselves in testing, the service would "buy what we need for who needs it now."

Many of the applications the Army wants to develop—for instance, the ability to watch full-motion video shot from a drone—can already be done with equipment now in the field. The potential advantage of smartphones and tablets is their lighter weight and ease of use.

The Army is taking a balanced approach when examining how smartphones might better serve soldiers. Aside from practicality, cost is an enormous factor. Additionally, some of the devices they'll be testing are, in the general market, somewhat fragile. Considering the desert conditions Army personnel often work in, the units will need to be able to withstand challenging environments. And, let's not forget the need for adequate power and secure lines of communications:

Troops need power to recharge their devices, and so the Army is studying alternative power sources, including solar chargers and micro fuel cells. Equally important, smartphones need enough network bandwidth to relay everything from chat and text messages to streaming video.

Brendan O'Connell, who heads a military-business unit for radio manufacturer Harris Corp., says smartphones are a popular subject in defense-technology circles, but that effective cellular networks for the troops aren't feasible without a "backbone communications architecture" that is rugged, mobile and secure.

These new developments will certainly lead to some interesting changes on the battlefield. And, from the sound of it, there may be fascinating breakthroughs in terms of alternative power and product strength. It will be exciting to see how the technologies we've all come to know and love are used to also better protect the homeland.

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