iPhone Likely Loser For DoD Biz

iPhone Likely Loser For DoD Biz

White Sands Missile Range -- As the Pentagon and Boeing explore the best uses for smartphones on the battlefield, it looks as if the iPhone’s proprietary software may mean the military will give it a miss and gravitate to Android phones because of their open operating systems.

This comes even after the Army’s vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, stood up last year, waved his own iPhone in the air and said it offered lessons to the Army for rapidly designing and moving equipment to the field. The potential military smartphone market is enormous since it could mean tens of thousands of Army and Marine troopers would be armed with phones designed to connect with secure mobile Internets created by the software radios, known generically as Joint Tactical Radio Systems.

Both the Army and Boeing are exploring how to use smartphones to improve soldiers’ performance on and off the battlefield. As Col. Marisa Tanner of the Army’s Future Force Integration Division puts it: smartphones provide each soldier with more sensors. The phones, coupled with those sensors and tied to a network, would also enormously increase the sharing of data between front-line troops, Special Forces operators and their commanders. In addition to the sensors on them, the phones could use custom-designed apps to speed data collection and sharing. The Pentagon’s advanced research arm, DARPA, is building an experimental app store, roughly modeled on Apple’s business model, which Tanner said “should open any day.” Soldiers would be able to build apps on the fly. Once they get approved for service-wide use, they could be shared online through secure Army portals.

The Army is trying Android, Windows Mobile and iPhones, Tanner said.

Boeing has already sunk some of its own research money into the idea of an app store, using iPhones to do it. They built, among other apps, one for processing detainees after hearing from an 82nd Airborne trooper that he regularly spent three to four hours to process detainees. That did not include the time he spent moving them from the field to a FOB or operations center where he could do the processing.

I tried the app out. It’s simple. Open it and there’s a button to use the iPhone camera to snap a shot of Osama bin Laden’s new driver. Another button allows you to grab a quick fingerprint. And there are fields to note exactly where, when and in what conditions the detainee was seized. If the smartphone was connected through a secure mobile Internet, that information could easily be shared with a Tactical Operations Center or with intelligence officers through something like the Army’s FBCB2 system.

Another promising app would be one for precision fires, Army and Boeing officials said. Imagine a smartphone in the hands of a Special Forces operator or a squad leader. The fight is in close, making a bombing run problematic or there aren’t any air assets available. The trooper uses the targeting app, feeds the data to the Accelerated Precision Mortar Initiative, the result of an urgent needs request from soldiers in Afghanistan, and wipes out a Taliban squad or sniper without killing or wounding civilians. Of course, that targeting data could also be fed to aircraft or even a Prompt Global Strike weapon for a strike on a High Value Target like Mullah Omar.

The Army is trying out 200 smartphones — Android and iPhones — here to see how soldiers use them, how effective they might be and how secure they can be made. There is no money in the budget to fund it yet, but if the test goes as well as Army officials here think it will, the fielding of smartphones would be made part of son of FCS’ (known official as Brigade Combat Team Modernization) Increment 2, the

The basic problem with iPhones, according to a Boeing source, is that Apple’s produt uses proprietary software. Each app would carry a $200 charge, the Boeing official said, posing what could be a significant costs to the services. On top of that, the Pentagon and the four services are trying to extricate themselves from closed systems — stovepipes — and use only open source systems to which they own the rights or are truly open, like Unix. And troops are showing a preference for a horizontal screen with real keys as they try to input information using gloves and one hand, according to Tanner.

Boeing’s opinion on the iPhone matters because Boeing built SOSCOE, the JTRS middleware that connects the radio’s waveform software to other software like applications. The Pentagon owns SOSCOE and wants to own or use an open source system so Apple would appear to be a deep disadvantage if it wants to supply the Army and other services with its product.

Making smartphones secure enough for military use is one of the biggest obstacles to their deployment. Col. Tanner and others noted. First, the network they operate on must be secure. Then the phones must make secure transmissions. And they must be made be made tactically secure, so that if a soldier is killed or wounded and the enemy grabs their phone they don’t get an open window into U.S. or allied operations, intelligence or capabilities. Tanner pointed to technologies like the Remote Wipe  and Find My iPhone services that could be emulated. Also, biometrics such as fingerprint or iris scans could be build into phones so that no one but the user could access them. And there is the standard Common Access Card (CAC) card used across the military services to access computers that could be adapted to phone use.

[Full disclosure: Boeing paid for our flights to and from White Sands.]

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Give me a break — with so many other real programs in danger of fund cuts — why is something like this even on the table. Dont anyone even try and convince me that this has nothing more to do with campaing funding or hopes of a cushy civilan job after retirement.

Why tap into a vibrant developer community and leverage the most innovative company in America when we can pay Boeing and DARPA for “less-costly” junkware and junkphones? No wonder DoD IT is such a joke.

Since Android has more developers and is open source so anything can be done with it. i would say that is the better choice.

Buy stock in small battery companies! :-) Why are we making the military services more “paper intensive” regardless of whether it’s real or electronic paper! We need less of this stuff. The only benefit is to the contractors who will soak the government for every dollar they can get from the “perpetual motion” of developing and upgrading apps!

uh…proprietary systems are a PROBLEM? If my own experience is anything to go by, proposing that a DoD project go open-source gets you laughed off the face of the Earth.

I’m pretty sure the LandWarrior software that’s been in development and limited use is Unix based.

The VCSA has been pretty clear that the Army is not interested in proprietary software solutions because they do want to be dependent on 1 company for updates or advancements. They want to develop an open architecture approach that allows for greater involvement by more companies. That’s why the Android phone might be a better way forward.

It’s the world upside down. Here there is a gadget and now they are wondering how to use it.
It must be the other way. The soldiers in the field need gear and assistant, the question is how to give them that what they need.

And the biggest problem will be how to secure the line’s. There will always be hackers, and they are damn good.
And if the phones (soldiers) are sending out signals, they can be located and attacked (another gadget on the enemy phone.)

The iOS is proprietary, but it’s not like apple is going anywhere. The submarine that had to be towed back in when it’s proprietary software failed that was a great choice. And thats just one of many software failures of the many open systems that the military uses. They need to consider other things.

I think it’s awesome. I own the iPhone (i owned the 3G, 3GS) it comes in handy but I have to say it tends to freeze up. Android on the other hand to very susceptible to hackers (note: any system can be hacked, Android is the flavor of the day). My other concerns are the enemy using a simple process (this technology exists and is quite effective) in which they can block or disable RF thereby killing communication that equals chaos.

Hey, Colin. This article made the DoD Early Bird! That’s two in the last two weeks.

What ever happened to getting whatever the troops on the ground need to do the job?

If this smartphone makes the boot on the ground get his job done faster, get it to him. Spending 4 hours processing someone is 4 hrs not spent in the field.

Android is way more susceptible to hacking. Android has about 40,000 developers. Apple’s iOS has over 210,000 developers. It is getting the lionshare of development and also has has the lionshare of hackers trying. So far, none successfully. Android has already been hacked. And Google has been hacked by the Chinese, many times over the last 3 years. Apple is the one system that has not been hacked by any outside government.

Android isn’t more susceptible to hacking than the iphone. Who comes up with this junk? Apple Fanboys? Also, it doesn’t matter how many iOS developers there are. None of them are cleared and most can’t get cleared to work on sensitive stuff for DoD anyways. Android is the way to go. Also, to an extent, you are allowed to change and customize the Android code for your needs. Phone developers have done that since it came out. Apple’s iOS? NO. Walled Garden. Apple’s good are actually the flavor of the day. With more and more people buying iphones and ipads, hackers are finding ways to exploit any and all means of getting into that walled garden. Case and point is Goatse downloading the email addresses of over 150,000 ipad users thanks to ATT’s screw up. Would they have done this if it were a blackberry? NO. They did it due to the popularity of the ipad. Plain and simple, Apple is and will remain a target.

The iPhone has been hacked more than once. It’s also been rooted every time Apple tries to close it and brick people’s phones. As for Apple’s site being hacked, yes, it has happened. It happend recently thanks to them using Foxxconn for their sweatshop needs. The only reason why Google’s made the news is because of their fight with China over basic censorship and human rights. Google disclosed it only to get sympathy from the UN and to bloster support against China. Only ignorant fanboys say “Apple is the ONE system that has not been hacked…” The “one” compared to what? Ignorant. $teve Job$ has someone sniffing around his backside.

“Each app would carry a $200 charge”

Can someone provide more info about this?

I also believe the DARPA app store has been cancelled in lieu of a CIO/G6 app store that won’t be out until October at the soonest.

I know fact checking is hard, but it seems like a good practice.

@Boomer: this has nothing more to do with campaing funding or hopes of a cushy civilan job after retirement.

Why does it have to be black-and-white, a binary choice of platforms? Diversity of platforms is a good thing. With Net-Centric Warfare, all data and services are in the cloud anyways, so the choice of platforms becomes less of an issue. Think of the hundreds/thousands of apps made for both iPhone and Android devices. The push is for mobile access to the cloud. That’s the direction the transformation is going and its one I think both camps of users are on board with.


The $200 info comes from Boeing. If it’s not true then they have been misinformed. The DARPA info comes from the Army colonel working this stuff. If it’s been changed then she doesn’t know about it. If you have details on the G6 app store please share. Meantime, I’ll check with DARPA. Thanks.

Then why are we looking at outfiting troops with phones, they have no tactical purpose and are not rugged enough for field use to start with. Somebody is getting thier pocket lined.

Since when does Boeing not like closed proprietary software??? The article says it, they built SOSCOE. They are one of the worst violators of closed platforms

iPhone doesn’t need to be hacked. It’s manufactured in China.

This is just another example of the stupid decisions that are made when you put a bunch of open source bigots in charge of an 8-figure program instead of Enterprise IT professionals.

SOSCOE is nothing but a huge bonanza for Boeing. It does nothing that a decent COTS software stack already does. And dumping the most popular and largest consumer base in the world for smartphones is just another example of their nose-in-the-air attitude. We shall be pure and free!

can just see it, SF operator
’Left 100 up 50′
from wife
’why dont we talk anymore??‘
’10 rounds Fire for effect’
’Fine then whatever.’

This is total hypocrisy. So they’re complaining about paying $200 for a proven, well-designed iPhone … but they won’t think twice about paying $500M for an integration/paper pushing contract with someone like Boeing. Who will then take the “open” platform and customize the heck out of it. So the govt won’t be dependent on one COTS provider … instead they’ll be even more dependent on one team of beltway bandits. And when the project fails, like most of the big projects do … the supposedly “open” software solution will still get tossed out, and they’ll start all over, since the new integrator won’t want to take on the risk of the first integrator’s mess.

As soon as Boeing makes the first customization to the “open” system … it’s no longer open. At that point, the Army is no longer dependent on someone like Apple, they are instead totally dependent on Boeing. When Boeing can’t make it work (and there’s a 70% chance they won’t) …then there is no residual value to all the invested effort and the “open” software, because the next integrator is going to start from scratch. No way they’ll take on Boeing’s mess. I have personally witnessed this exact thing, over and over again — on everything from $50M to $>1B programs. So if you really think using “open” software means you’ve eliminated dependency on one vendor … you’re just drinking the beltway bandit koolaid.

The point is this is totaly not needed if the actual problem were addressed and fixed. This all boils down to a number of times com gear failed and troops were only able to get help using a land line or cell phone. So the solution would be to get good com gear to start with which is already avail off the shelf rather than buying a bunch of banaids instead of getting our guys proper equipment. These cell phones will be no good to operators in the field for days on end with no way to recharge them or for operators who have to swim rivers and such to get to thier destinations. FIX THE REAL PROBLEM.

Sounds like they are complaining about a $200 charge for each app that needs to be designed…

Open Source would be without the liscencing cost, so the cost to the government for each app would be development costs alone rather than kickbacks to Apple.

As for the Apple Vs Google thing… umm,
so Apple is doing the same idiocy that cost them the dominance in computers?
Ohh Well, I may switch to from Iphone, does ATT have a Droid Type yet?

you’re making a huge number of ludicrous “arguments”. I personally know quite a few iOS developers with clearances. There’s a technical advantage to Apple’s security mechanisms over Android, because you can’t go in and arbitrarily run your own code. Unless you’ve jailbroken the device, in which case it’s no more secure than Android. If the DoD only permits their apps onto the phone, it’d be VERY secure — and Apple does have tools which can enforce that restriction. The same issues could happen with Blackberry users, but no one would care. :-P

Has anyone seen the battery replacement procedure for the iPhone series? Looks like you need to unscrew 8 tiny phillips heads, pry off a cover, several plugs, and then pry out the glued in battery. Wouldn’t want to have to do it under fire, so just another battery add-on pack and dongle to carry around. And since it currently supports only GSM cellular service with its weak crypto, you will have to have another dongle to connect it to the tactical radio of choice to securely get back to the network (unless you expected your foe to keep its cell infrastructure operating!) (OK, Grenada was an exception.)

Some of you guys have no clue what you are talking about. The government is doing the right thing by going with smartphone technology. They don’t want to make the phones the want to buy and adapt them. They don’t want to pay 200 per app they want them free and be able to modify them as needed. It’s not rocket science it’s about helping our soldiers stay alive. Do some research before you post stuff you have no clue about. As far as the crypto technology needed to secure the transmission, that’s been well discussed. Just not with people like you.

Except it uses military encrypted communication protocols and is battle hardened which is exactly what it was suppose to be. Go figure.

Chris you are the smartest person on this blog space. You get it.

the apps as they are used commercially cannot be used by the DoD so I imagine some of that cost is to have the right to modify them. That’s a guess.

I think both can be secure enough with some modifications but you can’t beat opensource innovation. You just can’t and any argument against that is silly. If Apple were smart they would not charge the government for the licenses and just sell the hardware but I agree they will lose this battle because they want to make it closed source. The troops love the iphone but once the android phones like the Evo become more popular, its over.

Opensource doesn’t necessarily mean its open to the public iC it means that you have a platform to start on without starting from scratch. Yes when a modification is made it will be owned by the government not Boeing nor anybody else. Having it in Unix guarantees somebody will be able to build from it. You saying they will start from scratch is not correct since they didn’t start from scratch in the first place. Also Apple and Boeing won’t be around forever but very likely Unix will be.

It’s not even a choice, Andoroid, Google, Opensource wins every time. Show of hands how many iPhone app developers here. How many Android developers here (raises hand)?

The iPhone and the Android stuff are really small general purpose computers with all of the attendant problems in managing them. . If the application exists that does exactly what you want, then you only have to pay the $200 locked to the carrier or $500+ to get one without the ball and chain, and add in the license cost for the software. BUT, if what you want doesn’t exist then you have to DEVELOP it. And the first DoD meeting to discuss what to develop, who to develop it, and when it is good enough is going to cost many multiples of the $200 app registration fee. And you do want to test the thing aren’t you–before fielding it? Every problem soluble just like it has been before, but no free lunch.

The argument that the iPhone OS is proprietary is somewhat spurious. iOS is based on Darwin, which is an open source, POSIX compliant OS. Darwin is compatible with SUSv3 and POSIX applications and utilities. The XNU kernel is a hybred, combining the Mach 3 microkernel, part of BSD and an object oriented API driver, but underneath it all, its still basically UNIX.

Looks like everyone has given the DoD a reason to issue a RFP to their favorite Top 10 Contractors to develop a tactical radio DROD/iPhone Look-A-Like. Of course it will come with a secure OS and everything about it will be proprietary (as the Beltway Bandits don’t like sharing) and only cost a Gazillion taxpayer dollars. Let’s don’t forget about the iAPPs they’ll be “free” to the end user, but cost another Gazillion taxpayer dollars……

Counter insurgency strike… there’s an app for that.


OK, I’m always open for using technology to simplify things. As a former grunt and a current law enforcement officer, technology can provide huge advantage if used and applied properly. My question is this; instead of using iPhones and Droid phone why not try using BlackBerry which comes with encryption capabilities on every model. So the BlackBerry may not be as cool as the iphone or the Droid but it is much more business oriented with its encryption capabilities and apps. I do hope that I don’t offend anyone but I must say I used to be strongly opposed to technology but I have learned (resistantly) that is applied properly it can be a time and money saving asset.

“If Apple were smart”… Apple’s market capitalization tops $500B, I’m pretty sure they know more about profitability than you.


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