US Army developing Android-based smartphone framework, apps

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The US Army has developed the Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P Handheld), the army's first effort to create an Android-based smartphone framework and suite of apps for tactical operations. The government-owned framework, known as Mobile/Handheld Computing Environment (CE), ensures that regardless of who develops them, apps will be secure and interoperable with existing mission command systems, according to Defense Aerospace.

Furthermore, the US Army has announced that it will soon release an Android development kit so that apps to be used by soldiers on a variety of combat handsets and devices can be written by anyone. This CE SDK will be released in July.

Until then, the US Army will develop certain core apps (Mission Command Apps) that will come with every handset, including mapping, blue force tracking (keeping track of friendly units in order to avoid friendly fire incidents), Tactical Ground Reporting, or TIGR tactical graphics and critical messaging (such as SPOT reports, Medevac and Mayday) between all mission command systems. The baseline suite of apps will also include an address book and Open Office for document viewing.

The Mission Command Apps for the JBC-P Handheld are being developed to run on different Android variants. As for hardware, the JBC-P Handheld will be either an existing government off-the-shelf unit or possibly a commercial off-the-shelf buy, but either way it will have a "ruggedised tactical sleeve or case".

Google should be proud that the US Army is choosing its mobile operating system as the basis for the JBC-P Handheld ecosystem. Apple, Research In Motion, and Microsoft probably aren't too pleased.

"Using the Mobile /Handheld CE Product Developers Kit, we're going to allow the third-party developers to actually develop capabilities that aren't stovepiped," Lt. Col. Mark Daniels, product manager for JBC-P. JBC-P, said in a statement. "That's going to allow us to be interoperable across the entire family of systems of JBC-P, which would include the platforms, the aviation, the logistics community, the tanks, the Bradleys, the handhelds."

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