Government // Mobile & Wireless
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2/27/2014
05:08 PM
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Boeing Unveils Self Destructing Smartphone

Rugged and super-secure Boeing Black smartphone targets government agencies involved with defense and homeland security.

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Aerospace manufacturer Boeing is launching a secure smartphone with a "self-destruct" feature, and the ability to switch between government and commercial networks.

Dubbed Boeing Black, the smartphone is mostly intended for government agencies and "companies engaged in contractual activities with those agencies that are related to defense and homeland security," according to a Feb. 24 filing with the Federal Communications Commission.

The company, which makes advanced communications systems and satellites as well as commercial and military aircraft, said it came up with the smartphone after devices currently on the market did not meet the needs of defense agencies. 

Boeing intends to keep the phone's specifics secret, stating in the filing that "low-level technical and operational information about the product will not be provided to the general public." It did, however, share some details on its website, which includes a two-minute video marketing the device.

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"The Boeing Black smartphone was designed with security and modularity in mind to ensure our customers can use the same smartphone across a range of missions and configurations," reads a description. 

The Android-based smartphone comes with encrypted storage for sensitive data and trusted boot to safeguard data from the moment the phone is turned on. It also has hardware media encryption and configurable controls to secure the information that's being transmitted. It uses Boeing's PureSecure architecture, which, according to Boeing, "is built upon layers of trust from embedded hardware, operating system policy controls, and compatibility with leading mobile device management systems."

The Boeing Black also has a dual-SIM capability that allows users to switch between government and commercial networks, and works globally on GSM, WCDMA, and LTE bands. Boeing said the smartphone's 5.2-inch-tall shell can be customized with additional sensors, an extra battery, satellite transceivers, biometrics, and other hardware.

The phone is much heavier and thicker than Apple's iPhone 5s, and can self-destruct -- erasing all data and software -- if someone attempts to break it open. Boeing said it drew on "its deep expertise in information assurance, advanced technology partners and a U.S.-based manufacturer" to develop the smartphone. Although Boeing hasn't disclosed when the Boeing Black would be available, The Wall Street Journal reported that the smartphone would be ready by this fall. Boeing said it would be assembled in the US.

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Elena Malykhina began her career at The Wall Street Journal, and her writing has appeared in various news media outlets, including Scientific American, Newsday, and the Associated Press. For several years, she was the online editor at Brandweek and later Adweek, where she ... View Full Bio

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SamuelC143
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SamuelC143,
User Rank: Strategist
2/27/2014 | 5:31:23 PM
Origin of the Boeing Self Destructing Phone
The article did not mention it, it is well known in the Puget Sound area (Seattle) that this device is the product of a "black hole" activity also known as the 787 program. The tenfold cost overrun of that program developed technology that can destroy any good idea, including labor harmony and for which an Android phone was child's play. Of course using Android as the basis for a trusted phone destroys any hope of security which makes it the perfect match for the self destructive hardware. One would suspect the marketing efforts to be similar.
J_Brandt
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J_Brandt,
User Rank: Ninja
2/27/2014 | 5:58:02 PM
A real market?
In the era of consumer tech/BYOD and the death of multiple devices, is there a real market (Beyond the Mission: Impossible team) for this type of phone?  And a key question not answered by the article – can you play Angry Birds on it?
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 8:38:29 PM
Re: A real market?
I can't think of any practical consumer uses (other than a pretty awesome party trick). Certainly practical for military/government use, though.
J_Brandt
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J_Brandt,
User Rank: Ninja
2/27/2014 | 8:41:18 PM
Re: A real market?
That's a very expensive party trick! :)
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 8:41:32 PM
Shades of SMEPED
The last time the military sought a super secure top secret smartphone, it ended up with the SMEPED - the Secure Mobile Environment Portable Electronic Device.  It's performance was as clunky as its name -- so much so, that even President Obama refused to use it. While its hard to imagine this ever being more than a niche phone, it's intesting to see Boeing jump into the mobile fray here.   
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2014 | 6:15:12 AM
Re: A real market?
J_Brandt,

I was wondering the same at first. But as the Boeing Black is intended for government agencies mainly, and companies engaged with those agencies, for defense and security I suppose there is a market and Boeing saw the opportunity. 

The self-destruct feature, however, would be useful for other people, too. Maybe after this Apple, Samsung, or any other manufacturer add a self-destruct capability to their devices as well. 

About Angry Birds, worry no more. Rovio will make sure every government agent will have their quota of secure Angry Birds play. :D 

-Susan
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2014 | 6:31:46 AM
Secret price?
Elena, 

Very interesting article. Is there an estimated price for the Boeing Black? I couldn't find anything on the Website, or the PDF. Or is the price top secret? :D 

-Susan
ElenaMalykhina
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ElenaMalykhina,
User Rank: Author
2/28/2014 | 10:35:20 AM
Re: Secret price?
A Boeing spokesperson wouldn't disclose the phone's price.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2014 | 5:55:28 PM
The New Blackberry?
The front looks like the Samsung Charge, doesn't it? and if I'm not mistaken, it has the same 4.3-inch screen.

I read somewhere that it took 3 years to developed this phone. No wonder it looks like the Charge, which came out by then.

I'm sure a company like Boeing could come out with a better design. Version 2 perhaps?
Also the video could show the so-called self-destruct thingy. Well, @ least it has solar charged batteries; which is neat.

 

 
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2014 | 11:08:59 PM
Re: A real market?
Well, that and reliving old spy shows.  ;)

This article has the Inspector Gadget theme running in my head!  Also, Get Smart.
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