Having made a smashing debut in the commercial markets, Apple's iPod Touch and iPhone are quickly making inroads into the hardware stock of the U.S. military. Soldiers in Iraq are using military-issued iPod Touches and iPhones for a wide variety of tasks, including translation and mapping.
According to Newsweek, the Pentagon is breaking with tradition by using commercial products such as the Touch and iPhone instead of developing its own handheld devices for the military's long-term plan of "networked warfare" where every soldier is connected to the intelligence grid.
On the other hand, the military has a unique advantage when it comes to iPod Touches and iPhones: It can develop applications without approval from Cupertino. Programs such as Vcom3D's Vcommunicator that provides soldiers with Arabic and Kurdish phrases and Next Wave Systems' app allowing military personnel to send pictures back to command posts for identification.
"This iPod-based tool uses audio of scenario-specific phrases and video of culturally appropriate behaviors to assist users in language training and cross-cultural communication anytime, anywhere," Vcom3D states on its Website. "The iPod platform is solider-friendly and provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to meeting our soldiers' needs."
Next Wave Systems already has a government pedigree in designing, developing, acquiring, deploying and supporting myriad military systems, subsystems and components. The company recently received a prime contract from the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to install a wireless security system located in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
"Our years of experience in contracting with and for the United States government and working hand-in-hand with our warfighters provides us with unique insight into the customers' needs and how to satisfy those needs with effective systems and solutions," boasts Next Wave.
Particularly when the soldiers are already familiar with the platform, as so many military personnel are with iPod Touches and iPhones. Newsweek quotes Lt. Col. Jim Ross, director of the Army's intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors operations in Fort Monmouth, N.J., as saying an iPod "may be all that they need."
Other Touch and iPhone applications in development or already in use include Knight's Armament "ballistics calculator" for snipers, using the Touch as a remote control for bomb disposal robots and the ability to download aerial video from drones.