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Android Goes To the Battlefield 128

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-the-terminator-kind dept.
wiseandroid writes "Google's mobile operating system Android has won plenty of adherents among cellphone makers and gadget manufacturers since its 2007 debut. Now defense contractor Raytheon is preparing it for a more urgent mission: saving lives in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Using Android software tools, Raytheon engineers have built a basic application for military personnel that combines maps with a buddy list. Raytheon calls the entire framework the Raytheon Android Tactical System, or RATS for short. Mark Bigham, a vice president of business development in Raytheon's Intelligence and Information Systems unit, says the company selected Android because its open source nature made developing applications easy."
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Android Goes To the Battlefield

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  • Saving lives?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by raju1kabir (251972) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @12:35PM (#29857385) Homepage
    Why do breathless writers always say "saving lives" when they refer to military applications? They're about taking lives. Just taking different ones.
    • Re:Saving lives?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @12:39PM (#29857427)

      Why do breathless writers always say "saving lives" when they refer to military applications? They're about taking lives. Just taking different ones.

      The lives they're saving are on our side. Also, this article isn't talking about Android being used as a weapon.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        The lives they're saving are on our side.
        Our "side"? Imperial stormtroopers
        Their "side"? Mothers, children and helpless villagers, "inconveniently located" on top of something we want to steal.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by IDtheTarget (1055608)

          The lives they're saving are on our side. Our "side"? Imperial stormtroopers Their "side"? Mothers, children and helpless villagers, "inconveniently located" on top of something we want to steal.

          Ahem. As one of those "Imperial stormtroopers", I'd ask you if you've ever deployed overseas to see what really happens over there. In the Army we call CNN "Pravda [wikipedia.org]". Because their reporting has the same relationship to the truth that the old USSR paper did. I deployed to Iraq for a year. I didn't kill anybody, and our unit helped to build schools and hospitals. But that doesn't help CNN's political agenda, so they never reported it, though we had a CNN reporter embedded for about a week.

          • Re:Saving lives?? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ClosedSource (238333) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @02:03PM (#29858131)

            The fact that you consider CNN "Pravda" is disconcerting. I suspect there's a bit of indoctrination going on in the Army. How many of those who enlist had actually heard of Pravda until they joined the military?

            Besides, CNN was quite the cheerleader when the Iraq war started and didn't do their job of keeping the government honest.

            Of course, the sacrifices that men and women like you made are real and we appreciate it. We just hate to see your valor wasted on an unnecessary war.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Runaway1956 (1322357) *

              "The fact that you consider CNN "Pravda" is disconcerting. I suspect there's a bit of indoctrination going on in the Army."

              Old Navy here. Naturally, I can't speak for the Army - but we had our own opinions of the newspapers. They seldom reported anything the way it was. When we made the papers, each paper put it's own spin on things, sometimes to the point that the story was simply untrue. Left leaning newspapers generally try to make us look bad, right leaning newspapers try to make us all look like he

          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Ahem. As one of those "Imperial stormtroopers", I'd ask you if you've ever deployed overseas to see what really happens over there. In the Army we call CNN "Pravda [wikipedia.org]". Because their reporting has the same relationship to the truth that the old USSR paper did. I deployed to Iraq for a year. I didn't kill anybody, and our unit helped to build schools and hospitals.

            Good for you!

            That is indeed the way to win the peace, and I'm happy to hear about it. Thanks.

            Nevertheless, the fact is, the Army actually does kill people, you know.

        • by Scyber (539694)
          So what exactly is in Afghanistan and Pakistan that we want to steal?
          • Natural gas.

            Pipeline routes that we can control in the "Great Game" to exclude global power from China, Russia and/or India.

            Global Opium and Heroin trade (Afghan opium production, which fell under Taliban rule has rocketed 1000% since the placement of 'coalition troops').

            Don't believe it? That's because you didn't closely follow DoD and CIA ops in Laos and Cambodia - nor see the documented history continue through Nicaragua, El Salvador and Panama.

            • by Toonol (1057698)
              You didn't read the comment. He said "STEAL".

              Not "Allow to develop and market".
              • Offered:

                The Real Reason for More Troops in Afghanistan

                We can all look back at the wonderful decision that was made to send more troops to Korea. If we had not, we could have been bogged down in a quagmire there that would have required 50 plus years of American lives, involvement and money. What a wonderful decision it was to send more troops to Vietnam. If we had not, we could have lost over 58,000 soldier's lives; kill

          • Do we need an exact single reason? Just making billions and billions from the industrial military complex is enough reason for some to keep wanting war.
        • The bit about "inconveniently located" I can understand in Iraq. Afghanistan? Not so much.

          As for mothers, children, and helpless villagers - give it a break. We went into Afghanistan on a legitimate mission, and I think we are justified in almost everything we've done there. We ain't killing women and children, and those adult male villagers aren't so very helpless as you might think. Men seldom are.

          The Taliban should have handed over their Al Queda buddies when the US asked for them, and we wouldn't B

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          Our "Side"? Free Constitutional Rebublic.

          Their "Side"? Despotic Religious Theocracy.

          Yes, that's a blatant generalization. But as blatant generalizations go, it's more accurate than yours.
          • Our "Side"? Free Constitutional Rebublic.
            Their "Side"? Despotic Religious Theocracy.

            The USA is more theocracy than Saddam Hussein's vehemently secular Iraq was.

      • Also, this article isn't talking about Android being used as a weapon.

        In the military (and in prison), even a toothbrush and a bar of soap can be be used as a weapon.

      • by Storchei (723338)
        In my opinion, you should ask yourself a couple of things such as:

        1) What is the motivation behind the war in Pakistan/Afganistan?
        (oil and other resources FOR the US)

        2) Why is there a war there?
        (because of the US empire and they greed for natural resources)

        3) Who really is the invader in those lands?


        MobileTatsu-NJG, defend the killing in other countries is the same as defend terrorist attacks or killings in your own country. In my opinion your hands write faster than your brain thinks.
        • I didn't defend anything. Reread his post, then mine.

        • by maharb (1534501)

          Unless you look at the fact and realize that the country of Afghanistan's innocent people were being help hostage and terrorized by what can only be described as gangsters, terrorists and organized crime bosses. Not saying the US doesn't have other motives for helping restore order to the country but to say the US just invade for the sake of resources is unfounded (please show me evidence that we have taken any natural resource at below market price). So to the point of your #3: who really is invading? S

          • by Storchei (723338)

            You'll always be able to find an excuse! So will your enemy.

            please show me evidence that we have taken any natural resource at below market price

            Sure.. neither gun manufacturers and military companies gain anything.. They do it on behalf of the nation..

            Should the international community stand around and watch while innocent people are controlled by ruthless gangs?

            Of course not. Instead, should innocent people be murdered because of the possibility of ruthless gangs to take control?

            One thing is to agree with the Afghanistan war, other thing is to believe it's on behalf of people wellness. I found this last hilarious and quite naive. How about Cuba or Guantanamo, among many other places? Aren't those co

            • by maharb (1534501)

              It all makes sense now. You are from Argentina. I was offering middle ground. Explaining why everything is not as black and white as you are painting it. You are shoving your black/white opinion down everyone's throat without even thinking about reality.

              Certain American companies are gaining business from the efforts in the middle east that is true. They are NOT gaining it by stealing or unfairly taking anything from any country in the middle east. In fact its quite opposite. The American taxpayer is

      • by dugeen (1224138)
        No sir. Any side that kills thousands of civilians purely for shock and awe purposes, and uses torture and takes pictures to prove it, isn't our side.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It's more patriotic. people like feeling good about themselves, and "Killing foreigners" isn't as patriotic of soldiers as "saving lives".
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Don't forget the "fight for freedom" which means ours and not theirs.

        • by Nathrael (1251426)
          I think Iraqis enjoy quite a bit more freedom today than they did under Saddam.
          • Re:Saving lives?? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by raju1kabir (251972) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @01:24PM (#29857773) Homepage

            I think Iraqis enjoy quite a bit more freedom today than they did under Saddam.

            Having visited Iraq now and then during the war and "post" war period, I disagree. People almost invariably say they lost more than they gained. They used to have limited political freedom. Now they can't leave the house without worrying about getting shot.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Nathrael (1251426)
              The difference here is that people are afraid of terrorist groups however and not their government. I'm quite sure that the new Iraqi government won't feed you feet-first into an industrial grinder for saying that you think the current head of state is full of shit. Yes, there is a huge terrorist problem in Iraq now, maybe larger than Saddam's state terrorism, true, but it's outlaws doing it and not a "lawful" government.
              • Re:Saving lives?? (Score:4, Insightful)

                by raju1kabir (251972) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @03:23PM (#29858809) Homepage

                This is a fascinating distinction for people halfway around the planet to debate about in online forums.

                For the people in Iraq who just want to live their lives in peace, it's not really that salient on a day-to-day basis. What matters to them is that their existence is orders of magnitude more perilous post-invasion than it was in the Saddam days.

              • I'm sure as they get put 'feet-first into an industrial grinder' they will go "Oh thank god, you aren't my local MP. That would have sucked" right before they scream their lungs out and die.

                ~_~ God this is as bad as in the olden days. Sure we killed 2/3rds of the populace and they will likely not survive the winter, they have god now, and with love and fear in their hearts a couple of them might go to heaven. Except democracy doesn't even promise heaven, just that maybe 50years from now the country might b
              • Ah, the shredder story again.

                http://www.sovereignty.org.uk/siteinfo/newsround/iraq6.html [sovereignty.org.uk]

                Next up, Iraqi soldiers throwing premature babies out of incubators in the first Gulf War: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2002/03/01/1174261.php [indybay.org]

            • They used to have limited political freedom. Now they can't leave the house without worrying about getting shot.

              Well, yeah, but at least they are free to leave their houses. I'd say, "Mission Accomplished!"

              (It's an attempt at humor)

            • by Toonol (1057698)
              "Political Freedom" is not the same thing as "Safe from Violence". Different axis of measurement.

              Ideally, you would have both. If not, possessing the first is worth sacrificing the second.
          • Re:Saving lives?? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Runaway1956 (1322357) * on Saturday October 24, 2009 @06:40PM (#29860419) Homepage Journal

            I'm most certainly not a liberal or a neocon - but you've sampled the Koo-Aid. The fact is, life in Iraq was much more stable under Saddam than it is today. Immeasurably more stable. You really should find some articles about the bookstores in Iraq. What happened to them epitomizes what has happened throughout Iraq.

            Yeah, Saddam was an evil sumbitch, and he deserved to die, but he was a stabilizing force, no matter how much we disliked him. IMHO, pure arrogance on the part of a neocon president forced the military to invade Iraq.

    • by muzicman (1148101)
      Maybe they are referring to the lives of the soldiers who are to be using this software. But obviously their lives don't count as they are just soldiers aren't they.
      • Maybe they are referring to the lives of the soldiers who are to be using this software. But obviously their lives don't count as they are just soldiers aren't they.

        It's quite obvious that's who they are referring to. But effective soldiers kill a lot more people on the other side. Lives are not, in the balance, being saved -- unless the device somehow brings the conflict to a very rapid close. It may or may not be a good thing, but it's a fact.

    • Why do breathless writers always say "saving lives" when they refer to military applications?

      Honestly, I have not noticed this trend at all. This is the first instance, in fact.

    • Re:Saving lives?? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ducomputergeek (595742) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @02:09PM (#29858191)

      "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

      • He also said something about fixed fortifications and stupidity and yet managed to get bogged down by undermanned third-rate forts on the rear-guard of the Maginot line. I wouldn't exactly quote him for anything related to military matters. Bombast, bluster and looking like a pimp, maybe. After all, he was a cavalry officer who derided dragoons around ww1.

      • by evilviper (135110)

        "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

        A quote by Gen. George S. Patton. Likely the most over-hyped military leader in all of US Military History. The only thing he was particularly good at was PR. He's a completely mediocre commander otherwise.

    • by Storchei (723338)
      I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU!! Even if we compare the number of people killed by the US against the number of people (soldiers and others) killed by the so called "evil" countries, the statistics is at least worrying! To me it seems the US wants to improve the killing of enemy people, make it more efficient (and cheaper) using technology. No further comments
    • by Osurak (1013927)

      Why do breathless writers always say "saving lives" when they refer to military applications? They're about taking lives. Just taking different ones.

      Probably for the same reason it's called the "Department of Defense" rather than the "Department of War"

    • by AP31R0N (723649)

      Why do my mod points always expire just before some idiot posts bullshit like this?

      Grow up.

  • acronym (Score:3, Funny)

    by igotmybfg (525391) <slashdot@danielthomp s o n . net> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @12:35PM (#29857393) Homepage
    You would think ARTS would be a more psychologically pleasing acronym than RATS, but what do I know, I'm just a code monkey...
    • by funkyloki (648436)
      I think that Raytheon, the company behind the product might want to have their name first, rather than the Android name.
    • Uhhh - we are talking about the MILITARY. RATS is far more appealing than ARTS. ARTS is something we might expect to find at Berkeley or Oakland. It sounds gay. RATS, on the other hand, inspire fear in people everywhere. RATS are dangerous in a variety of ways.

      You should ask some soldiers, sailors, and veterans what their nicknames are. I served with guys knows as Scurvey, and Spaz - no one ever got a cute nickname. If you tried to give him one, he'd break your nose and convince you differently.

      ARTS.

  • I wonder if they have an enemies list to complement the buddies list. Tactical systems are funny like that. You have users of the application -- the enemy combatants -- who don't really want to be users of your application.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @12:40PM (#29857433) Homepage Journal

    Android apps don't have to pass through a central app store to get widely distributed to a set of Android phones. So the military can limit distribution of the apps. They could even distribute an Android OS distro with a crypto key that is bonded to that phone's serial#, which is needed by any app to run or even to decompress/decrypt from the distribution package, so military apps can't be used or inspected outside the military's own phones.

    Is there any way to do something like that on iPhones? Like at least just developing an app that doesn't get run through Apple at all (signing or uploaded to the App Store), but is just an install package downloadable from a website (perhaps with a password) and installable on a phone, perhaps with an unlock code. AFAICT, that's all locked out by Apple's iPhone architecture. Has anyone figured out how to do "distributed distribution", without needing Apple at the center of all of it? On iPhones that aren't jailbroken, just the stock iPhones that anyone can have?

    • by earlymon (1116185)

      Is there any way to do something like that on iPhones?

      Evidently, the iPod touch is already providing popular service to US troops in Iraq.

      http://www.newsweek.com/id/194623 [newsweek.com]

      Admittedly - that article's for translation software. It may not directly answer your question about military / restricted apps for the iPhone - but it seems to lay the foundation in that the DoD is already pretty okey-dokey with the use of these devices by the troops.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      http://www.apple.com/iphone/business/integration/#deploying [apple.com]

      There is the Apple Enterprise Developers program for creating and deploying in house apps.

      http://developer.apple.com/iphone/program/apply.html [apple.com]

    • by evilviper (135110)

      They could even distribute an Android OS distro with a crypto key that is bonded to that phone's serial#, which is needed by any app to run or even to decompress/decrypt from the distribution package, so military apps can't be used or inspected outside the military's own phones.

      If you want to encrypt an app so it can't be opened without the proper key, you can just encrypt it with ANYTHING. PGP seems the best candidate. You don't need any special hardware or software configuration.

      If you, instead, expect

  • Once again, Sci-Fi begets reality. This time toys go to the battlefield.

    http://www.toyarchive.com/STAForSale/NEW2001+/GiJoe/MOSC/AFAPacRatMachineGun85a.jpg [toyarchive.com]

    I believe there were three, and I had all of them as a kid. Seems like they were super flimsy and basically fell apart without even touching them.

  • It sounds good, but then again so did Land Warrior.

    I can see it being useful in an urban environment, but can see a lot of issues with it in the mountains of Afghanistan. First being connectivity. Relying on a cell network in a 3rd world country doesn't seem like all that good of an idea. Getting a reliable signal in the mountains is hard as it is. It would be very bad for a unit to get used to using this system, and then get somewhere that it no longer works.

    Second problem is EM signature. Cell phones

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Frequency hoping helps with this on regular military radios and cell phones can't do this.

      What's that, "I hope this frequency hasn't been compromised"? Anyway, aren't CDMA phones spread-spectrum? It'll work in the USA! Er, wait...

  • Mark Bigham, a vice president of business development in Raytheon's Intelligence and Information Systems unit, says the company selected Android because its open-source nature made developing applications easy." (emphasis mine)

    If that was the case, then Open Source systems would have more applications than closed source counterparts. But this is hardly the case.

    In addition, I see far more substandard, half-baked software on "open" systems than closed ones. What's going on?

    An example: Open Source OO.o is still as buggy and a pain to use on its Open source native OS (read Linux), though it runs and feels better on closed source Windows. This is after a decade of development. Do not tell me OO.o does not have resources. I just do no

    • Mark Bigham, a vice president of business development in Raytheon's Intelligence and Information Systems unit, says the company selected Android because its open-source nature made developing applications easy." (emphasis mine)

      If that was the case, then Open Source systems would have more applications than closed source counterparts. But this is hardly the case.

      They do. I'm sure you'll find a dozen office suites even if you are not counting forks.

      In addition, I see far more substandard, half-baked software on "open" systems than closed ones. What's going on?

      What is going on is that companies have a separate testing department (read: separate people) and software (such as litmus) to support the process. Open-Source projects partially don't have the man-months to fix all bugs. Sometimes they just stop developing after they solved their use case and disregard others (in the worst case this means the program is accessible for people who have coded in it).

      An example: Open Source OO.o is still as buggy and a pain to use on its Open source native OS (read Linux), though it runs and feels better on closed source Windows. This is after a decade of development. Do not tell me OO.o does not have resources. I just do not understand this argument.

      That has to do with the

  • My concern is that this type of software application is too generally available. There is a reason why governments around the world use custom created software for their major military projects. Don't get me wrong, if a widely available technology can be used to aid in conflicts then I am all for it but I would suggest that putting trust in software that wasn't designed with a military purpose in mind is a dangerous mindset for people to get in.
    • by u38cg (607297)
      One of the most commonly used platforms out in the field right now is the iPhone. Its lack of robustness is more than made up for by its cheapness, ubiquity, and ease of use.
  • But not really. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by transiit (33489) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @01:14PM (#29857699) Homepage Journal

    This is an article based on a Raytheon press release. What hardware does said application run on? Even the article suggested there's no established contract yet.

    I like the idea that open source/free software is getting more traction in this area, but no platform, no contract suggestes this is just fluff. Whether or not your bullshit meter started twitching that they've been working on this for two years is up to you.

    Bonus BS points that they throw in the "Oh, and it could also be a biometric scanner". Feature creep comes early.

  • Android's been getting a lot of tech press lately. I'm not sure who that press impacts - and while we're smarmy about the new Droid ad, I'm not sure who that's impacting either - the existing Android faithful or a new market.

    Now Forbes - the darling of investors and managers - is telling that audience that a major defense contractor with an iconic American name in electronics has selected Android.

    To top it off, the follow-on links given to Forbes readers are:

    Motorola CEO Talks Android [forbes.com]

    Google's Android To In [forbes.com]

  • Can we see real killer apps now?
  • to the battlefield. most technology in the United States invariably finds its way into our war machine. Since we spend the majority of our GDP on war, we have seen everything from tabasco sauce to laptops, go carts and exploding anti-tank dogs, an operating system based almost entirely on the notion of freedom and now an internet enabled cellphone.

    one could argue war as we have waged it in modern times has been a thinly veiled product placement campaign. We will know when real war appears as it wont

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

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