A major US defense contractor announced an iPhone app yesterday
that it would make available to support troops in the field. One Force Tracker is an app developed by Raytheon that uses the phone's GPS to track friendly and unfriendly forces, show their positions on real time maps and provide secure communications. Raytheon - otherwise known as the world's largest producer of guided missiles - noted that the app can also be used by first responders like police, firemen, and emergency medical technicians.
Dr. Jay Smart
, the Chief Technology Officer for Intelligence and Information Systems at Raytheon, says the app is working now, on unmodified iPhone hardware. He described how the app would be used by a soldier or Marine on the battlefield, entering information on the iPhone - probably in a ruggedized case - and sending it to a local server, which would push updates to a common map back to all connected One Force Tracker apps with points like, for example, identified sniper sites or safe fallback areas. “This is hypothetical, but if there is a building with known terrorist activities, it could automatically be pushed to the phone when the soldiers get near that area,” according to Dr. Smart.
The app would also allow units to more closely coordinate their activities in real time. “If there was another platoon that was supposed to arrive, and they were delayed, or ahead of schedule, you could adapt your plan,” said Dr. Smart. “If one of the units you are counting on is redirected, you know that in real time.”
Dr. Smart also hinted that the fielded version of the app would have to rely on a heavily modified version of the iPhone OS, to deal with the lack of multitasking on the platform. “Underneath the iPhone is a Mac OS X operating system which is based on Unix, which gives us Unix multitasking,” he said. This indicates that Raytheon would essentially be jailbreaking their iPhones in order to get multitasking to work. It's possible that Apple may roll a unique software release for the huge defense contractor, but Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the app from the New York Times
Raytheon is also at work on an app for training air traffic controllers
. The app would use gaming techniques to build trainees' skills in identifying aircraft and terrain, visual scanning, doing math in their heads, and rule-based decision-making.
satellite image via Raytheon