Wednesday, November 3, 2010

MILCOM 2010 - Utilizing Smartphones for the Warfighter

One of the major trends at MILCOM this year is leveraging the use of commercial smartphones for military use to field advanced communications to the field quickly. Billions of dollars are invested in commercial development for smartphones so why not use that advanced technology for the military. The commercial market also updates capabilities quickly so if the commercial smart phone can "plug" into a secure military network, the comm device does not become obsolete after a year or two.

One of the best examples of utilizing this strategy is Lockheed Martin's MONAX 3G broadband network. MONAX is designed to bring an affordable, 3G broadband network to Warfighters at the first tactical mile and enables the use of smartphones and delivers smartphone data, imagery, video and applications. Lockheed has designed a "brick" device (called a Lynx) that has a battery, antenna and RF circuitry to transmit and receive secure 3G communications to the network that the smartphone just clips into. A rubber sleeve is also used to encase the smartphone to make it more rugged. The device uses standard AES 256 encryption and utilizes different frequencies than commercial networks so as to not interfere with the local communications. The basestations can be put up on towers but are better used on airborne platforms like balloons where they are quickly deployed over the area and provide wider coverage. Below is a short video demonstration of the MONAX network.

video

The MONAX devices are available on GSA for around $1000. They provide a low cost quickly deployable network that can be used now. It is well suited for the Warfighter, disaster communications, rescue situations and similar situations where secure communications are needed quickly. It is not a fit for top secret or highly rugged communications but is a possible solution for most military communications needs. It is currently a 3G network but can be updated as the technology progresses to 4G and beyond.

They plan to build a library of apps appropriate for the Wargfighter such as mapping programs, video surveillance, facial recognition for identification, battle planning, medical apps to forward injured soldier information ahead to the medical unit and more. This will provide capable communications now while other programs come on line in the future like JTRS and WIN-T. The might be a secure iTunes app store in the future!

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