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7/21/2010
03:36 PM
Eric Zeman
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Army Testing Patriot Missile Android App

Google's Android mobile operating system is good at lots of things. Who knew that one of them was targeting Patriot missiles at the enemy?

Communication on the battlefield is key. More and more, U.S. armed services are looking at consumer technology to help them to just that. Defense contractor Raytheon is working with Google's Android operating system and putting its tech prowess to the test with a new application that interacts with Raytheon's Patriot missile system.

According to Reuters, the Patriot missile application would be used by soldiers to tap into aerial or satellite imagery, and have those flying/orbiting assets focus on things on the ground. The application could be used to read license plates, or be used to capture a person's facial features.

Another interesting use of smartphones on the battlefield could come in the form of social networking. Not that Private A needs to see war-zone pictures posted by Private B, but Raytheon's software would allow soldiers to "see" one another in a theater of operations and track each others' location. If a soldier sees a potential enemy, he or she can tag that person as such and all the soldiers in the network will see the tagged enemy.

"We're trying to take advantage of smartphone technology to tailor for what soldiers may need in the field," said Mark Bigham, vice president for defense and civil mission solutions at Raytheon, in an interview with Reuters.

Raytheon is working with devices from Motorola and HTC, though it didn't specify which. The devices will use Raytheon-developed encryption software and the essential communication tools so the software works when there aren't cellular networks in range. The devices would also have identity recognition software and could only be unlocked for use by specific armed forces personnel.

"What you have to do is provide your own communications networks ... communication coverage is absolutely an issue but there are very cost effective solutions that you can use which give you a pretty big foot print," Bigham said.

The U.S. Special Forces have field-tested some of Raytheon's software, and the U.S. Army is considering how best to use it.

[Via Reuters]

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