Apps for the Army


 It was bound to happen: using an "app phone" in a combat zone. We’ve seen the DishPointer app in use in Aghanistan, and it probably won’t be long before a "tough" unit is out for warfighters in the field. Sure, there must be some proprietary software to keep it secure, but does it have to be so complicated?

Now the U.S. Army is throwing its considerable weight behind it with their "Apps for the Army" program:

Ever since we launched Apps for Democracy for DC’s Office of the CTO back in September 2008 the world has been a-buzz with “Apps for” contests. We recently released a guide for how to create your ownin order to make this kind of innovation method more accessible to people around the world. There are now about a dozen of these innovation contests being run by cities, national governments and various non-profits.

Today I’m happy to announce a new Apps initiative – one which iStrategyLabs has been contracted to create with the Army’s CIO/G6. A special thank you goes out to Tim O’Reilly – who envisioned this program and served as an advisor/connector to make it happen. Below you’ll find full details from the Army’s official media advisory (download as .DOC), and a summary is as follows:

  1. A media and bloggers’ roundtable will take place March 3 at 1:30 pm in the Pentagon, Room  1E462.  Lieutenant General Jeffery Sorenson (Army CIO) will discuss Apps for the Army and take questions. To attend the roundtable in person, or if you plan to call in, please contact: Ms. Ashley McCall-Washington at 703-614-1649 or [email protected]
  2. The competition runs from March 1st to May 15st 2010
  3. There are 40 employee cash awards totaling $30,000 for mobile and web apps
  4. Only 100 initial teams can participate
  5. Awards will be announced in June, with public demonstrations at LandWarNet
  6. Registration forms and other details can be found on AKO:
  7. will serve as a collaborative software repository
  8. RACE – a cloud based development sandbox will be provided. Participants can access a Windows server, Linux server and mobile app emulation software for Android and Blackberry. iPhone apps will need to be developed outside of RACE.
  9. MilBook’s Apps for the Army group will serve as the core collaboration space for all participants
  10. If you’re on twitter, use the hashtag #apps4army to follow the conversation

Video summary…


Cool approach by reaching to developers with real cash prizes.

For more on what’s happening out there, it’s always a good idea to keep up with Wired’s Danger Room:

In the military’s vision of future, the real trick will be getting information down to the individual soldier on the battlefield. Now the Army plans to test a smartphone for soldiers that will have mobile applications that could — in theory — access everything from technical manuals and maintenance records to maps and cultural intelligence.

In a discussion yesterday with reporters, Maj. Gen. Keith Walker, director of the Army’s Future Force Integration Directorate at Fort Bliss, Texas, said that around 200 soldiers would receive an “iPhone-like device” with digital apps installed.

Walker said the devices would have “various apps for system maintenance, instruction manuals — that we can all remotely upgrade. Also, we’re working to allow soldiers to have a distributed way of getting feedback to us on the equipment, where they can do Wikipedia-style upgrades to tactics, techniques and procedures, and comments on performance of hardware and software.”

Further down the road, Walker said he could envision tactical applications, like an app with GPS capability that could pinpoint the user’s location, or a digital tool that would allow troops to analyze terrain.

“This initiative we are moving out on,” Walker said. “We will see this happen this year.”

It’s part of a larger project called Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications. While there is not yet a definite plan to procure and field a combat iPhone, troops at Fort Bliss will experiment with the handset to test ways that some of these new technologies might actually be integrated into the force.

It’s not the only experiment underway at Fort Bliss. Soldiers of the service’s 5th Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss are testing and evaluating pieces of the Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization plan — a more streamlined successor to the service’s now-defunct Future Combat Systems program. Other items being tested include a common controller, a Nintendo-style control that can be used to maneuver both the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle robot and the Class I Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (affectionately known as the “flying beer keg”).

 Need some imagination? Check out these gadgets and robots…