When Google developed the Android smartphone operating system and Apple launched the iPhone, little did the companies think that their clever new devices would one day end up on the front line of combat, but that now seems to be what is happening.
The US army is commencing trials on the use of these phones in the battlefield. The applications that these devices will be used for include retrieving up to the minute information from databases outlining information on enemy placements, along with streaming video from surveillance cameras and drones. Although these activities are currently available, they need cumbersome and expensive equipment, whilst a smartphone can be carried by a soldier in his pocket.
It is expected that these phones will demonstrate their worth and that eventually it will become commonplace for troops to carry them. Special apps and software may be developed for each mission or mission type. One app being investigated is one that can help expedite soldiers who have been wounded. This could provide precise information on the position of the wounded soldier along with information on his condition and on his injuries.
Another app is Soldier Eyes which displays maps of the combat area using augmented reality to provide soldiers with instant information regarding battlefield objectives and targets. A biometrics app includes the ability to take optical scans that can be used to provide identification of captured enemies.
The one downside is that phones such as the iPhone 4 and Android smartphones is that their battery life tends to be somewhat limited. The army is attempting to overcome this by developing power chargers that can recharge these units quickly using tiny fuel cells and solar powered chargers. There is also the challenge of providing the phones with reliable network cellular connectivity in the battlefield and base-station deployments would be vulnerable targets for the enemy.
Interestingly the army has found that the physical durability of the iPhone is sufficient. During initial testing hundreds of phones have been used by soldiers and all but one survived.