Army advances mobile technology efforts

Thursday - 10/28/2010, 5:27pm EDT

Gary Winkler, program executive officer, Army Enterprise Information Systems

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The Army is increasing smartphone access to its Army Knowledge Online application.

Gary Winkler, head of the Army's Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems, told the DorobekINSIDER that people are no longer "tethered" to their desk or a laptop. They can be anywhere to access real-time data, he said.

In the past year the Army started using Windows mobile devices to access AKO. From their mobile devices, people can check their e-mail, calendar, data tasks -- and do it all securely. The common access card is used for authentication.

"Your PDA becomes your link into the cloud," Winkler said.

A prototype iPhone with the needed application interface for AKO is in production, expected to be in use by January, and the androids will follow, Winkler said.

The mobile devices can plug into terminals with larger screens and keyboards, thermal print sticks and pocket-sized projectors that project images on a wall.

"It's your entire office in a pocket," Winkler said. "It's amazing."

The next step is developing applications -- and making sure those apps are secure.

"We may have secure devices but we've got to make sure the software we put on the devices are secure as well," Winkler said. He said the Army will need to develop an accreditation process for the apps.

At the same time the Army is investing in becoming more mobile, it is also increasing use of collaboration tools through AKO.

A feature called Good to See You will allow people to interact in "a social way" about a variety of issues, such as retirement services, rest and relaxation and veterans employment.

Another feature will be launched by the Army's medical community to allow soldiers to chat online with counselors, part of the Army's suicide prevention efforts.

"We can get them the help they need before they spiral down," Winkler said.