Android is sexy, as are the ever-increasing number of smartphones and PC tablets that take advantage of Google’s operating system (OS). Military personnel, even officials at the highest ranks, agree. Soldiers want to use Android devices and Apple’s iPad in the field, while on a mission, communicating, socializing, killing time, or blowing off steam.
Soldiers have historically been frustrated by the inability to employ popular, commercial technologies and devices in military environments. Military personnel have lamented “stepping back into the 1950s” when they set foot on a base or the battlefield.
They have longed for mission rehearsal, simulation, and training systems that deliver the same high-end graphics, fidelity, and responsiveness as Microsoft’s Xbox or Sony’s Playstation. They have endured the longtime use of VHS tape to capture and share video imagery. They’ve previously seen their iPods, MP3 players, and USB flash/thumb drives banned.
Now, however, they are getting iPads and Android tablets. Are these commercial devices—which, by all accounts, have not been tested to and do not adhere to military standards for ruggedization, security, and more—ready for prime time on the battlefield?
The US Department of Defense (DoD) seems to think so. The US Army in September issued a solicitation for roughly a half-million dollars worth of iPads, protective cases, and protection/insurance plans. The US military isn’t alone. Military personnel in the UK are training on iPads at the Royal School of Artillery in Wiltshire. Even a military unit of the Russian Federal Security Service is rumored to have illegally ordered two iPads.
I’m a computer geek. I own Apple products. I’ve built many a computer system, a majority of them architected for military use. I’m not sure I would entrust military missions and lives to an iPad. Not right now, anyway, and not without serious ruggedization. Android devices, however… well, that’s another story. Stay tuned!