Smart phones coming to warfighters

Friday - 12/3/2010, 4:34pm EST

Smart phones for use on the battlefield should become a reality within a year under the Army's Multi-Access Communications Extender program (MACE).

The Defense Department's efforts to bring this technology to warfighters was the focus of this week's DoD Live Blogger Roundtable at the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's communications-electronics center (RDECOM CERDEC).

There has been an explosion of growth in the private sector with smart phone networks and applications. Army officials say they want to leverage that growth for use on the battlefield.

Right now the Army is working out network issues, specifically with the security of the network and applications that run on the smart phones.

Army researchers are trying to develop a way to download apps from a central site - like an app store.

The Army will not be using a single proprietary provider, like Apple's app store. Sources say the Army essentially wants to make itself the provider.

The Army will be able to simplify the process and reduce cost by modifying commercial technology that already exists. For example, it will use commercial smart phones and modify them to make them more rugged and secure.

MACE is a three-year start-up program. But officials say it won't go anywhere. The plan is to continue with it - even as changes happen within the wireless industry.

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily DoD Report. For more defense news, click here.