Open Source Android Empowers the Military to Evolve

Android addicts are everywhere. Even those who didn’t anticipate using a larger number of apps on their smart phones are finding themselves downloading a new app almost daily. Google’s Android mobile operating system (OS) is making waves throughout the commercial market; and now, thanks to Raytheon engineers in Waltham, Mass., it is likely to change the face of the digital battlefield.

Soldiers are starting to demand of tools in their military arsenal the same levels of convenience, functionality, power, portability, and ease of use offered by tools employed in their private lives—including the Apple iPhone, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation Portable, and other COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) technologies. They want to use their iPhones to communicate mission-critical information quickly. They want to train on and use electronics/computing systems with the game-level graphics, processing power, and realism of the latest video game consoles and computer displays/monitors. Android and companies harnessing the power of the OS, including Raytheon and Mentor Graphics, are working to make that happen.

Is Android OS ready for military use?

Is Android OS ready for military use?

U.S. defense contractor Raytheon has unveiled the Raytheon Android Tactical System (RATS), a tactical mobile platform built on the Android OS and tailored to deliver multimedia content to warfighters quickly in battlefield environments. It employs maps and the “buddy list” utility, enabling soldiers to locate and track other soldiers and, even, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Raytheon is currently developing applications for intelligence collection and analysis to be used on the Android platform. Potential apps will enable license plate reading, streaming video camera feeds, and biometric/facial recognition.

Raytheon developers selected the Android OS because it is open source; the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) also urges the use of open-source architectures. (And yet, many military organizations still don’t permit the use of thumb drives.)

Tremendous innovations come, and do so quickly, from open-source development platforms; yet, in mil/aero, is open source a security liability? Should military handheld computers require a secure real-time operating system (RTOS), as in the case of President Obama’s Blackberry? (Last question: Did you know that Mentor Graphics provides real-time operating system (RTOS) and Android solutions?)

This geek wonders if it’s realistic for the mil/aero industry or the DoD to set up an “app store” of sorts and invite software developers to contribute or sell apps with relevance to military and aerospace applications and environments.

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Posted November 5th, 2010, by

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About J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

J. VanDomelen holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and myriad certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTia in varying facets of computer software, hardware, and network design and implementation. He has worked in the electronics industry for more than 12 years in varied fields, including advanced systems design of highly technical military and aerospace computer systems, semiconductor manufacturing, open source software development, hardware design, and rapid prototyping. J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

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2 comments on this post | ↓ Add Your Own

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by MindShare LLC, J VanDomelen. J VanDomelen said: Is the military planning to use an open source operating system for classified information? Read more at […]

Commented on November 19, 2010 at 11:04 am
By ron davison

2 points:
1) This will allow other military to copy and adopt the same technology.
2) They will do it without us anyway via open source more quickly than us if we don’t

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