Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Military Businesses Apple

US Military Issuing iPod Touches To Soldiers 323

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the gi-pod dept.
644bd346996 writes "Newsweek has an article about the latest weapons in the US military's arsenal. The iPod Touch and the iPhone are being adapted as general purpose handhelds for soldiers in the field. 'Apple gadgets are proving to be surprisingly versatile. Software developers and the US Department of Defense are developing military software for iPods that enables soldiers to display aerial video from drones and have teleconferences with intelligence agents halfway across the globe. Snipers in Iraq and Afghanistan now use a "ballistics calculator" called BulletFlight, made by the Florida firm Knight's Armament for the iPod Touch and iPhone. Army researchers are developing applications to turn an iPod into a remote control for a bomb-disposal robot (tilting the iPod steers the robot). In Sudan, American military observers are using iPods to learn the appropriate etiquette for interacting with tribal leaders.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Military Issuing iPod Touches To Soldiers

Comments Filter:
  • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:14PM (#27654985) Homepage Journal

    The real question is: are the military funded applications sold through the Appstore? Or is the US army jail breaking their phones? Or is Apple providing the military special unlocked iPhones?

    Perhaps Apple should consider rerunning their 'think different' campaign - this time with a sniper rather than Ghandi.

    • by Mr. Roadkill (731328) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:26PM (#27655083)

      The real question is: are the military funded applications sold through the Appstore? Or is the US army jail breaking their phones? Or is Apple providing the military special unlocked iPhones?

      Actually, I'd bet that Apple are providing the military with special phones that are locked to an "Apps Depot" where the military can make available special apps they've sanctioned. You don't want a piece of military hardware able to run any old dodgy thing sold through the app store, and you equally don't want the machine unlocked and potentially vulnerable when the soldiers install the latest piece of iPorn for Unlocked Phones that hits the bazaars. Remember the pirate DVDs/VCDs with viruses and rootkits and all kinds of other goodness on them that went through military laptops a while back?

      • by EvilIdler (21087) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:37PM (#27655159)

        Apple has an enterprise program. You buy the $299 dev licence, and you can install to your own company/platoon/whatever's devices.

    • I doubt it. More likely that (a) they're using Ad-hoc distribution and paying an appropriate license for it and (b) they're using unlocked phones (which aren't "special"--you can buy unlocked phones from Apple for $600).

    • Not nitpicking (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The right spelling is Gandhi.
      Gan as in "gone" + dhi as in the first portion of 'this'.

    • The real real question is: are the iPods and iPhones colored in desert camouflage?

      'Cause I want one if they are.

    • by YayaY (837729) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:52PM (#27655277) Homepage

      thanks, I'll be playing Tetris behind enemy line.

    • probably just using the dev tools, and the iPod touch/phone imaging tool they provide us for schools.
    • Oh im sure that the folks from the Pentagram^h^h^h^hgon have some sort of site license and they have the phones locked to a depot or something

    • The real question is:

      No, the real question is what happened to Don't Pod, Don't Touch?

  • The EULA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Norsefire (1494323) * on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:15PM (#27654995) Journal

    You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of missiles, or nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

    We've all had a good laugh at that clause but they may actually be close to breaching it.

    • Re:The EULA (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 644bd346996 (1012333) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:30PM (#27655115)

      I doubt that US law prohibits the military from developing missiles.

      • by bobdotorg (598873)

        I doubt that US law prohibits the military from developing missiles.

        Shhhh. Don't mention the NSA's issuance of iPods with their custom iTap software.

    • Re:The EULA (Score:5, Informative)

      by mysidia (191772) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:31PM (#27655127)

      They're military, they might not even necessarily have to obey any EULA.

      In theory, the feds could invoke eminent domain and force Apple to sell the IP rights if necessary.

      So Apple has every incentive to be accommodating to their needs...

      But most likely they just buy the DISTRIBUTION certificates from Apple, as any developer could, so they can sign and deploy their own apps on their own without necessarily having to put anything on the app store.

      Not all apps are necessarily public.

      • Re:The EULA (Score:5, Informative)

        by tyrione (134248) on Monday April 20, 2009 @09:41PM (#27655615) Homepage

        They're military, they might not even necessarily have to obey any EULA.

        In theory, the feds could invoke eminent domain and force Apple to sell the IP rights if necessary.

        So Apple has every incentive to be accommodating to their needs...

        But most likely they just buy the DISTRIBUTION certificates from Apple, as any developer could, so they can sign and deploy their own apps on their own without necessarily having to put anything on the app store.

        Not all apps are necessarily public.

        Wrong on too many levels. Your rationale with eminent domain has massive holes in it, never mind the Federal Military Top Secret IP angle. By the way, NeXT had a long history with the CIA. We worked for probably 15 years and continued after the Merger. There were custom builds for a client's need for a massive price.

    • That clause says nothing about using the products to support the use of such weapons.

  • by Alsn (911813) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:16PM (#27655007)
    For all your warfare needs, iWar includes anything a soldier needs! Ballistics calculations for artillery, able to say "we mean no harm" in fourhundred and twenty six different languages, a full guide of where to find usable drinking water and much much more. Subscribe now and you'll get free add-ons for a full six months! iWar, saving the lives of soldiers not near you!
  • Great idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by afidel (530433)
    Not. Unless they are getting milspec units I wonder how many lives are being put in danger by using consumer products in such varied environments. The mountains of Afghanistan in winter and the deserts of Iraq are probably both well outside of the rated range of these devices. Not only that but what happens when they get a little wet? I think the average joe shmoe probably treats his electronics a bit better than your average grunt. I personally love the idea of using something like this to control things (
    • Re:Great idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:34PM (#27655143) Homepage
      Do you understand the concept of 'disposable'? There won't be classified information on these things (that's on the network). When they break, you toss 'em. I don't have a link at the moment, but military personnel have been using consumer GPS units since the war broke out.

      A mil spec iPod would be too heavy to move without a Humvee and too expensive to give to anyone under the rank of Captain.
      • by afidel (530433)
        How disposable is the device if you are in the field relying on it to bring back realtime intelligence from a drone? The problem is that you have a very expensive information collection system built to battle standards and tactics built around those systems and then you cheap out on the part that makes the information actually usable. Like normal this is the brass crapping on the guy in the field after spending trillions of dollars on the toys. Who's brilliant idea was it to build the modern information cen
        • by flyingsquid (813711) on Monday April 20, 2009 @09:00PM (#27655345)
          The important thing to keep in mind here is that equipping our troops with the iPod Touch and iPhone provides them with something that no other technology can: that smug, hipper-than-thou sense of superiority that comes with being an Apple user. If Al Qaeda and the Taliban are still using Microsoft products, then their morale will suffer because they don't have the latest, cutting-edge gadgets, and they will lose tactical effectiveness on the battlefield.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            lol...

            [shot of bin laden sitting in dark cave, lit by monitor glow. Windows moviemaker is visible over his shoulder]

            "I'm going to make a little video here that I made with my camera [quick pan to sony handicam with CIA property barcode]. Here we go."

            "I like windows vista because it makes this job so easy. I just drag this file into the player window, see, and then I cut out the boring parts like this... and done. Now I just add a music track from windows media player, like this jonas brothers song here. I l

        • by jcaplan (56979)
          Its disposable because the device is so cheap that when one breaks then you just use your buddy's device. If its mil-spec you might end up with no backup device or no device at all. When my nephew was in Iraq they had problems getting enough mil-spec radios for their Guard trucks - they had been ripped out and given to other units that had shipped out earlier.
      • by bryanp (160522)

        A mil spec iPod would be too heavy to move without a Humvee and too expensive to give to anyone under the rank of Captain.

        Cute, but you can buy consumer cell phones that meet mil spec for shock, dust, etc.. I have one now and I'm about to get a new one. (the old one still works, but I've had it several years now and want something a bit newer.) They aren't much bulkier or heavier than the non-rugged counterparts, and aren't significantly more expensive either.

        • Re:Great idea (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday April 20, 2009 @09:37PM (#27655595) Homepage
          Yes, I was being a tad sarcastic - but you don't even need to re engineer the thing. Just put it in a nice holster / protector and you are most of the way there. And like I said, they can be pretty much disposable.

          If this works out, then somebody can build a mil spec iPod from scratch, but as a demonstration of concept, I don't see anything wrong with it. 10 million teenagers can't be too far wrong...
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by shermo (1284310)

            10 million teenagers can't be too far wrong...

            Wait, so you're saying the Jonas Brothers are the best band ever?

      • by LiNKz (257629) *

        Just a nudge at your GPS stuff..

        Civilian GPS devices are generally not as hardened as milspec devices and should not be used in the AOR (both in the physical and electrical/jamming sense).. I seriously believe that these pieces of technology should be considered a secondary tool that provides ease in their jobs.. but a compass and a map should too be a requirement.. regardless of milspec'd hardware.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LoRdTAW (99712)

      Your average grunt is joe schmo. I have a few friends who all served in Iraq. All of them had electronic gadgets to help pass the time. They had ipods, laptops, digital cameras, hand held gaming systems etc. One of my friends bought his fancy $2000 digital SLR and it survived no problem. One friend did have his mp3 cd player broken when some guy was throwing rocks at him. Other than that all their gadgets made it back just fine. BUT I am not suggesting Ipods and the like are battle field ready gear. Maybe A

      • by guruevi (827432)

        All they need is a decent cover for these things and it will work just fine. Solid state electronics these days are already near indestructible except for the LCD. Protect that and you're fine, they have leather holders with a hard flap that work great for under $15

      • Re:Great idea (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DrgnDancer (137700) on Monday April 20, 2009 @10:05PM (#27655787) Homepage

        This. We brought over more personal electronics gear than most people who haven't seen would believe. AND there's PXs on most of the bigger posts that will sell you more. AND Amazon.com ships to APOs (yes we could get to Amazon.com, don't be silly). We brought back more personal electronics gear than we brought over by probably at least an order of magnitude :-). The vast majority of it survived just fine. One guy blew out his X-Box plugging it into the wrong power, and digital camera screens got kinda scratched up from the dust, but in general, consumer spec gear did just fine (iPhones and iPod Touches having glass screens would be a big advantage there. Much harder to scratch).

        Now computers... those didn't survive as well. Personal game systems tended to stay in peoples relatively well sealed quarters, so they were mostly fine, but the grit really got into to anything that got taken outside much. Moving parts like hard drives, fans, and CD-ROMs failed a lot on our non-ruggedized laptops. The iPhone/Pods are fairly well sealed, all solid state, and like I said, have glass screens. Get a little plug to put into the ear phone holes and I think they'd have quite a reasonable failure rate.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        One of my friends bought his fancy $2000 digital SLR

        Canon's xD, and to a lesser extent xxD, and L lenses are weather/dust/water-sealed as a selling point. Their xxxD (Rebel blah) and consumer and mid ranges lenses, not so. Not sure how this specifically proves your point.

    • While, as you say, these are probably being used somewhat past their rated specs, I'm not sure that that is a critical problem. Touches are solid state and reasonably well sealed by default, and I'm sure that shoving them in a Pelican case isn't exactly rocket surgery. I suspect that, in practice, they survive pretty well.

      Beyond that, though, there is some truth to the old cliche "the perfect is the enemy of the good". Which are you better off with, the Touch running off-the-shelf software for under $250
      • by afidel (530433)
        The problem is the HAVE the ruggedized,secure general purpose computer system, they just chose not to fund it. It's called Land Warrior and it runs Linux on XScale so should be simple to design for. Building Glabal Hawks for $125M and then skimping on a couple thousand per field user is just the kind of crap the military loves to do to the soldier in the field.
    • Re:Great idea (Score:5, Informative)

      by 644bd346996 (1012333) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:47PM (#27655239)

      This kind of case [otterbox.com] is what the iPods get put in. I'd say they're probably close enough to mil spec that it makes the iPods clearly more cost effective. It's not like iPods are particularly fragile to begin with - once you protect them from moisture and sand, the only significant vulnerability that remains is the touch screen itself, which is easily protected with a flip cover. I doubt that temperature is much of an issue, given that they are all solid-state devices.

      Another example of an enclosure is this one, [knightarmco.com] for the first-gen touch, shown at the bottom of the page with an attached sniper rifle. This is clearly one of the best-protected iPods in the world. If you read more on that site, you'll see that they have done plenty of testing to ensure that the iPod can survive the shock of the attached rifle being fired numerous times.

    • Besides keeping their investment intact, do you think the Pentagon gives a good goddamn about their soldier's lives? Look at how they treat them once they've been chewed up by years of service.

      I guarantee they did an analysis that compared the cost of creating a milspec device with the same capabilities and how much money they would lose if x number of soldiers died due to malfunction. The only thing that could have changed their minds is a powerful politician and a well paid lobbyist with some contracting

    • Re:Great idea (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:51PM (#27655273) Journal

      Not. Unless they are getting milspec units I wonder how many lives are being put in danger by using consumer products in such varied environments.

      Soldiers have been using consumer grade electronics in the field for a very long time now. Army procurement in Iraq & Afghanistan is glacial at best and more often than not, its easier to order something stateside and have is shipped over either by the company or your family.

      And now for a tragedy in two parts:
      Date: December 2004
      Setting- SecDef Rumsfeld is taking questions from 2,300 soldiers in a hangar at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

      Part 1.
      Army Spc. Thomas Wilson: My question is more logistical. We've had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years and we've always staged here out of Kuwait. Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromise ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don't we have those resources readily available to us?

      [Applause from the soldiers]

      Sec Def Rumsfeld: I missed the first part of your question. And could you repeat it for me?

      Army Spc. Thomas Wilson: Yes, Mr. Secretary. Our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years. A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon. Our vehicles are not armored. We're digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that's already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.

      Part 2.
      Sec Def Rumsfeld: I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they're not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I'm told that they are being - the Army is - I think it's something like 400 a month are being done. And it's essentially a matter of physics. It isn't a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it.

      As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.

      The End

    • Milspec can make anything absurdly expensive to produce. This is important when you're building nuclear weapons where failures are very expensive.

      It's not so expensive when the cost of one breaking is to simply replace it with another practically free device. Surely the rugged cases they are in will protect them from water and shock.

    • by ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) on Monday April 20, 2009 @09:51PM (#27655685)

      You may remember that, in the earlier days of the Iraq war, soldiers would write home begging for their families to send them Talkabout FRS radios. Yup, those little handheld radios sold in blister packs at Wal-Mart for camping trips.

      Those things are, doubtless, less secure, less durable, less resistant to interference, and less powerful than purpose-built military communications systems would be. However, they had one big advantage: they were available to the soldiers when they needed them.

      If the military has trouble getting a mature technology like handheld radios into the hands the troops, you can bet that they'd flub something like handheld computers even worse. Sometimes, it's better to just buy the darned things at Wal-Mart.

      • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Monday April 20, 2009 @10:20PM (#27655845) Homepage

        Loved those things. We used them through most of our deployment. You couldn't say everything, but we used code for some stuff or just told people to get to a phone or encrypted radio so you could talk in the clear. The range was short, but usually enough for talking around the camp or for a gate detail or patrol to communicate. It wasn't actually that we had a shortage of milspec radios, it was more that the damned things weigh 25 pounds. Not something you want to be carrying in addition to your weapon, ballistic vest, ammo, helmet, water, etc. We had a small supply of police type radios that could be encrypted for clear communications, but even those are fairly heavy and we had fewer of them. The battalion commander briefly tried to ban them, but we convinced him that we knew how to avoid classified conversations over plain text, and that there were no real practical alternatives.

      • by afidel (530433)
        Sadly true, but more than anything shouldn't that have been a wakeup call that the military needs to spend more time focusing on the soldier in the field and perhaps a bit less on $150M a shot Globalhawks or $1B+ B2's? Perhaps the focus on the soldier that Gates espouses will actually come to fruition before the end of this series of conflicts. Perhaps it's because only three secretaries of defense (Perry, Weinberger, Richardson) have seen combat from the ground level vs big ships or airplanes or map pin pu
    • by Nutria (679911)

      I personally love the idea of using something like this to control ... my wife

      That's my kind of attitude!!!!!!!!!

      I'm just not soldiers are the best target audience for such efforts.

      But that's pretty condescending.

  • How well do they take being dropped / shot at? How about systems with Itunes?

  • by CyberSlammer (1459173) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:19PM (#27655021)
    According to the Ballmer testing division they make excellent projectiles, they have a 99.9% chance of putting an eye out.
  • by Starteck81 (917280) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:19PM (#27655023)
    Senators were heard saying quote:"These iPhones have become quite useful to the military. I guess it was a good thing we bought a couple to try out even thought they can't really 'jailbreak' you if you get caught taking bribes.
  • by Overkill Nbuta (1035654) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:31PM (#27655121)

    Ever wanted to blow up the **** out of terrorists?

    There is an app for that.

  • Hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BoneFlower (107640) <george,worroll&gmail,com> on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:31PM (#27655123) Journal

    I like the idea. Smartphones have enough computing power and sufficient battery life to perform militarily useful functions, with a minimum of added weight to the soldiers gear.

    I'm not sure about the platform choice though. One company controls the hardware and software. There are no alternatives in either category that allow you to benefit from prior investments- replacing the hardware or OS requires junking everything you already have. And if the public APIs don't let you do what you need, and Apple can't or won't, it won't do what you need and thats that.

    Android, or even Windows Mobile, I think would be better. A lot easier to switch to another device and minimize training costs, a lot easier and cheaper to get a device custom designed and built for specific military applications. These two are far more open- anyone with a properly trained engineering team and some money can make devices for these platforms. You need a specialized gadget integrated? You'll have a dozen companies salivating at defense budget dollars. You'll get it done, balancing capability and cost will be a meaningful choice and you can make it based on the needs and the budget, not because it's the best of limited options.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 644bd346996 (1012333)

      How exactly would a non-iPod device have lower training costs? Part of the allure of the iPod Touch is that so many soldiers already own them, and plenty more are familiar enough to use them with minimal training, and that's without even directly addressing the fact that the iPod has the simplest and most intuitive interface of the options.

      If the military decides that the iPod touch is an important platform to keep around, they can force Apple into enough of a licensing agreement that the government can hir

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pimpimpim (811140)
      I'm not sure about the platform choice though. One company controls the hardware and software. There are no alternatives in either category that allow you to benefit from prior investments- replacing the hardware or OS requires junking everything you already have.

      sounds like the average military/government spec to me.
    • by LBt1st (709520)

      Try operating Windows Mobile with gloves on..

      Not to mention, iPhone/iPod Touch are not that hard to develop for. Apparently the API's DO allow them to do what they need, so I'm not sure what your argument is there. The apps have been made, they're in the field already, in use. Your talking like this is a new idea and the future of it is uncertain. The future is Now.

      btw, this is coming from someone who's never owned anything from Apple and who uses a Windows Mobile PDA regularly.

  • by atarione (601740) on Monday April 20, 2009 @08:46PM (#27655229)

    what could possibly go wrong?

    there have been stories about the Chinese sneaking counterfeit chips into military application some of which have made there way into military aircraft.

    using a consumer gadget built in china seems like a truly epically bad idea.

    • by athlon02 (201713)

      I understand the concern, but I'm not that worried about it... they are not using them in missiles, aircraft, ships, etc. They are using them as supplements for calculations, video players, and remote controls for small robots. While there could be problems, they are likely to be on the smaller scale. And knowing how strict the military is on specs, I imagine they tested at least a few before mass distribution.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 644bd346996 (1012333)

      The military would never amount to more than a fraction of a percent of the iPod touch sales, so anybody attempting espionage or sabotage would have to subvert a huge number of iPods in order to have an effect on the military that is distinguishable from the regular failure rate, and the problem would probably be noticed by the general public long before the military was significantly affected.

      • by kuzb (724081)
        Good ol' security by obscurity. I expect nothing less from the US military.
    • by db32 (862117)
      You have no idea how many people it takes to run all of the abacuses that the military uses. It is pretty difficult to get any kind of equipment for calculations that wasn't made in China, but at least an abacus is easier to check for problems.
  • It's about time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by indytx (825419) on Monday April 20, 2009 @09:00PM (#27655343)
    Much of the clothing, camping, and cold weather gear available at a local REI performs better than what is issued to U.S. soldiers. The military has been slow to adopt consumer products which may work better than what is currently being supplied. This is gradually changing, and it's a change for the better. You don't always need everything to be radiation hardened. Sometimes the best product for a given job is available now, and you don't want to wait for it to be tested ad nauseum, debated, defended, and advocated through the convoluted military procurement process. An iPod Touch is relatively cheap, cheap enough that it's almost disposable. On the other hand, it's too bad there's not an option for AA batteries. Recharging is tough in the field.
  • by d_jedi (773213) on Monday April 20, 2009 @09:04PM (#27655373)

    PDAs/Smartphones which have the desired functionality have existed for many years before the iPhone/iPod touch.
    And using C# with the .NET compact framework is much nicer than developing for the iPhone (background processes, yeah!)

  • I'm glad it's an American company. I just wish the product were made in the USA.
  • by binaryspiral (784263) on Monday April 20, 2009 @10:20PM (#27655843)

    Back in the day when the Steves ran Apple there was a very strong understanding the Apple won't sell anything to the military for any reason, especially for warfare. Of course the military wasn't ever directly sold Apple products, but they aquired them through third party purchasers and ended up being in the missile silos anyway.

    I would imagine this business decree was tossed out with Jobs to help bolster sales any way they could.

    That, my friends, is where my fanboy history ends - I bought a PC and ran linux. The rest I read in the flame wars here.

  • by IHC Navistar (967161) on Monday April 20, 2009 @10:33PM (#27655937)

    DEVICE SELECT: DRONE='predator1'

    DRONESTATUS=predator1: >IN RANGEONLINEINVENTORY>WEAPONS>AVAIL

    WEAPONSAVAIL>MISSILE=0,1,2,3

    SELECT MISSILE=3

    MISSILE=3> TARGET=2

    MISSILE3/TARGET2: 'fire'

    ERROR: This device is protected by DRM. Please contact your dealer or reseller, call Apple directly at 1-800-APL-CARE, or you can visit our knowledge base on the World Wide Web at www.apple.com/support/ipodtouch/.

Lo! Men have become the tool of their tools. -- Henry David Thoreau

Working...