Mobile Applications and the US Military

It’s the day after Memorial Day, I’m sore from pulling ropes on a sailboat, and I’m just the right amount of sunburned.  However, we all know the Memorial Day holiday isn’t just a kickoff for the summer season.  Memorial Day honors our troops and veterans, and causes us to remember their hard work and sacrifices in the line of duty.   So, in the spirit of the holiday, today I’d like to talk about mobile tech is used by our United States military service.

The Army has had an app in the iTunes store since 2010.  To my surprise, it’s not a direct recruitment app or a game that glorifies combat.  Instead, it’s a mobile complement to the Army’s website.  The app offers news, pictures, videos, and even a logic game.  It’s a really great information source for those interested in the Army.  The “more” section this app is integrated with twitter and facebook and offers additional information about ranks and uniforms.  Of course, there’s also information on how you yourself can join and serve.

Last year, a piece in Wired outlined some plans for an Army-specific app store that would be managed by the government.  The store would allow the troops to download helpful apps while in the field.  Apparently bureaucracy and security concerns have so far kept this from becoming a reality, but when made available this would represent a major step forward in military and civilian technology.  Why would it be so revolutionary?  Well, the Army app store is itself part of the agile development process (the same process that I use to develop software professionally).  The store would not just be a place for soldiers to get applications for their mobile, but also a place where they can also offer feedback and ideas for new apps.  Users would describe their needs in the store’s form which  would then be quickly translated into requirements for developers.  This process greatly increases the speed by which developers can deliver useful apps to the user.

Finally, I found a nice list of applications that are dedicated to our Military as well as to the service of fallen soldiers.  Of course, some of the items on the list are cheesy, and perhaps you would feel silly to have a Memorial Day app on your phone a month from now. However, some of the other offerings are quite compelling.  For example, the “Inside Story of the Peace Conference 1919 HD” has information that was new to me about my favorite military subject – peace.  Also, the “USO On Patrol Magazine” in HD and the “Marines Magazine” are both free in the iTunes app store.
It is also worth mentioning that although both iPhone and Android apps are being developed by the military, no handheld device has been certified as secure enough to access government servers.