U.S. Army Recruits Android, and App Developers Too

Android: drop and give us 20. The U.S. Army wants YOU to build its first smartphone.

Android:  drop and give us 20.  The U.S. Army wants YOU to build its first smartphone.

The U.S. Army announced that it has enlisted Google’s Android operating system to power its first smartphone.

Wired’s Danger Room blog reports, “A prototype device running Android called the Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P Handheld), developed by tech nonprofit MITRE, is undergoing tests. The development kit behind it, called the Mobile /Handheld Computing Environment, will be released to app creators in July, the Army says.”

The two-pound device will reportedly contain a number of apps allowing soldiers to locate friendly forces, exchange “critical messaging” and other mission-specific tasks.

It will also allow soldiers to quickly and safely share geotagged notes about obstacles they encounter on the ground, such as roadside bombs or IEDs, and access more typical, non-battlefield apps like an address book and Open Office to view documents.

The salute from the Army is a coup for Google, and one that may spark an innovation war to develop battlefield-focused devices and technology should Apple push back to promote its own iPhone and iPad mobile devices.

The U.S. State Department is also reportedly in the market for smartphone technologies, specifically an app to bring social media and the Internet to developing democracies.

A report on the Army website earlier this week also indicated the force is looking beyond its own men and women to leverage innovation and new ideas.

The Army said it would release a software development kit over the summer to allow third-party developers to create other applications that might be of use to soldiers.

“All of the research dollars are out there in the commercial market. All of the best minds are at work in these companies to produce these smartphones and this software,” said Lt. Col. Mark Daniels, product manager for JBC-P. “We don’t want to rehash that, we want to leverage it.”

Tell us what you think. What apps would you include on the U.S. Army smartphone?