Bandwagon-bothering boffins at everyone's favourite military tech hothouse DARPA have announced that they would like some apps written for the iPhone or for handsets running Google's Android OS - "with potential relevance to the military specifically and the national security community more generally".
The Pentagon deathnerds note that:
In today's military, handheld systems are characterized by a tight integration of specialized hardware with a narrowly focused software suite. Most of the handheld devices are heavily optimized for a particular task and are ill-suited for general-purpose use. A soldier's radio, for example, has very limited data capability and essentially no multimedia capability. Current language translation devices support neither messaging nor collaboration of any form ...
A transformation in technical approaches and business processes is called for.
But it won't be a transformation powered by Windows Mobile. DARPA specifies that "initial interest will focus on apps developed on the iPhone or Android platforms". The idea is to find apps which will be helpful "especially among the end-users at lower levels in the military echelon".
Famously there are already apps for the iPhone which can make ballistic calculations for a sniper. Other existing software which would obviously help a soldier could include various kinds of navigation kit, user interfaces for remote drones - again, several of which are already on offer - and so on.
Some military hardware, too, has already taken on many of the aspects of a smartphone - for instance the Land Warrior wearable comm/puter rig. And in fact, no matter DARPA's perferences, at least one maker has produced a covert version of military belt-computer software to run on a Windows smartphone.
DARPA, unusually, would seem to be very much with - or even a bit behind - the times on this one. The agency normally prefers to be well into the future.
Full instructions for developers to submit whitepapers to DARPA can be found here (Word doc). ®