May 27, 2011 (09:05 AM EDT)
DOD Tests Delivery Of Data To Mobile Devices

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The military is testing ways to send intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) information to warfighters via handheld mobile devices as part of an annual technology multinational interoperability challenge.

The Relevant ISR to the Edge, or RITE, program is one being demonstrate at Empire Challenge 11, which is being held now through June 3 in several locations in the United States and abroad, but mainly at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

The annual challenge to demonstrate emerging capabilities in ISR is sponsored by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Intelligence, and features collaboration between the U.S. and other countries as well as among multiple military departments and federal agencies. Military commanders leading EC11 participated in a conference call about the event on Thursday.

RITE uses technology-agnostic mobile devices to connect to a multi-layer network and download a variety of ISR information in different formats for the dissemination of "tactically relevant info to a solder at the leading edge on a handled device," said John Kittle, EC11 operational manager.

While soldiers currently are using Android devices to test RITE, another military leader said that the program is hardware agnostic. "You can use an iPhone [too]," said. "The network doesn’t care what your handheld device is."

From that device, soldiers can use specialized military applications developed for the program to obtain relevant ISR information, or connect with multiple data sources to download text, video, or any other data that is helpful to the mission, officials said. For instance, there is data available from agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA), as well as a terrestrial layer of ground-based sensors that deliver ISR information. The devices also can access data from aircraft, both manned and unmanned, as well as satellites in space.

Only devices with the appropriate software on SIM cards can connect to the RITE network, which provides security against unauthorized people with handheld devices from accessing it, officials added.

The Army in particular has been testing better ways to get information into soldiers’ hands in the battlefield through the use of mobile devices. RITE is one of several programs the military has going at the moment testing various technologies and methods for information dissemination in this way.

The Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications program also equips soldiers with a variety of mobile devices loaded with custom applications to help them perform their duties better both on the battlefield and in the classroom.

Meanwhile, the Army also is testing the first Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P) handheld device leveraging a government-owned Android-based framework soldiers can use during combat missions. The idea behind the framework is to have a standard environment for mobile applications that will be interoperable with each other and existing mission-command systems.

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