Android addicts are everywhere. Even those who didn’t anticipate using a larger number of apps on their smart phones are finding themselves downloading a new app almost daily. Google’s Android mobile operating system (OS) is making waves throughout the commercial market; and now, thanks to Raytheon engineers in Waltham, Mass., it is likely to change the face of the digital battlefield.
Soldiers are starting to demand of tools in their military arsenal the same levels of convenience, functionality, power, portability, and ease of use offered by tools employed in their private lives—including the Apple iPhone, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation Portable, and other COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) technologies. They want to use their iPhones to communicate mission-critical information quickly. They want to train on and use electronics/computing systems with the game-level graphics, processing power, and realism of the latest video game consoles and computer displays/monitors. Android and companies harnessing the power of the OS, including Raytheon and Mentor Graphics, are working to make that happen.
U.S. defense contractor Raytheon has unveiled the Raytheon Android Tactical System (RATS), a tactical mobile platform built on the Android OS and tailored to deliver multimedia content to warfighters quickly in battlefield environments. It employs maps and the “buddy list” utility, enabling soldiers to locate and track other soldiers and, even, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Raytheon is currently developing applications for intelligence collection and analysis to be used on the Android platform. Potential apps will enable license plate reading, streaming video camera feeds, and biometric/facial recognition.
Raytheon developers selected the Android OS because it is open source; the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) also urges the use of open-source architectures. (And yet, many military organizations still don’t permit the use of thumb drives.)
Tremendous innovations come, and do so quickly, from open-source development platforms; yet, in mil/aero, is open source a security liability? Should military handheld computers require a secure real-time operating system (RTOS), as in the case of President Obama’s Blackberry? (Last question: Did you know that Mentor Graphics provides real-time operating system (RTOS) and Android solutions?)
This geek wonders if it’s realistic for the mil/aero industry or the DoD to set up an “app store” of sorts and invite software developers to contribute or sell apps with relevance to military and aerospace applications and environments.