Updated on May 16, 2012

"For soldiers in the 21st century, iPads, iPhones, Androids and other smart devices could eventually be as common on the battlefield as helmets, canteens and rifles."

- Los Angeles Times, "Taking iPads into battle"

Military apps for soldiers

Software companies are working closely with the branches of the military to develop mobile applications that will pass along intelligence, view reconnaissance images, or even pilot smxall drones by remote control. One company is even working on making Android more secure so that commercial apps can be used safely by service members on duty.

One helicopter pilot's idea to load theater maps onto his iPad prompted the Marines to distribute more of the tablets to dozens of deployed vehicles. In 2010 and 2011, the Army spent $4.2 million to develop its own GPS-based location app.

Finnish engineering company Elektrobit, meanwhile, has developed middleware that sits between Android's kernel and the application layer, making it more secure and compliant with strict governmental policies. Third party hardware makers could then build more rugged devices to survive the harsh conditions of combat.

BusinessWeek even posited that the military could set up its own app stores - for use by those in uniform only, of course.

Technology moving from the private sector to the military is a reversal of the classic pattern, said Jani Lyrintzis, vice president of special terminals at Elektrobit. That trend reversed about six years ago, and technology is just as likely to flow in the other direction now. In the not-too-distant-future, you could see the next great tactical advance on your cell phone before it's ever used in battle.


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