The military has always been a hotbed of research, development and innovation. Often these innovations and tech trickle down to the civilian population and become a part of everyday life.
Things such as your Sat-Nav, microwave, even duct tape were all born from the military R&D labs.
There is a single innovation that will truly reshape the modern battlefield in our lifetime.
However, rather than being developed in secret labs by “Q-type” boffins, this innovation is one that is already ubiquitous across the world, with you and your family most likely already having it in your pocket (or hand) right now — the smartphone.
Both the UK and US armed forces are developing ways to use the power of smartphones to help improve the performance of soldiers on the battlefield, and rather than re-inventing the wheel, they are looking to use and adapt consumer devices.
Connectivity - Being able to connect and link into shared networks
The connectivity of smartphones gives armies the ability to gain advanced persistent situational awareness and real-time intelligence.
While this intelligence was previously gained through employing a limited number of sensors and scouts, military smartphones means that soldiers do not need to rely exclusively on their military’s own reconnaissance systems and can leverage all existing surveillance systems on the battlefield (including tapping into those belonging to the enemy).
This increased connectivity will give soldiers access to the complete spectrum of near real-time intelligence feeds, whether they are military grade systems introduced to the battlefield or available systems inherent to the area.
The superior intelligence and situational awareness enabled through a smartphone enabled army provides a decided advantage.
Adaptability - Being able to have tailored applications
The adaptability of the smartphone enables armies to take advantage of near real-time analysis and support and conduct military operations with smaller footprints.
Soldiers can be provided with tailored military applications that both assist them with on the ground decision-making, but also, importantly, links them into the military analytical support centers who are capable of handling the large amounts of input feeds on the battlefield.
Providing real-time intelligence through smartphones enables the army to consistently and expertly execute ad hoc objectives, with soldiers able to request military strike packages tailored for their specific needs, circumstances and missions.
Smartphone apps can be deployed that enable soldiers to objectively calculate the package they need to successfully accomplish an objective. They are able to request a whole host of military options available, such as the delivery of a smart bomb, drone strike, naval gunfire, air force interdiction sortie, insertion of a military strike team, or a humanitarian relief package.
The adaptable interfaces of the military smartphone also enables soldiers to identify and focus on the set of most probable threats to them and is configured to address them.
Just like you can connect your watch or headset to your phone, the military smartphone can be customised with a suite of peripherals limited only by imagination. These can include peripherals that detect nuclear, biological, or chemical hazards, sensors that detect armored equipment or armed personnel, biometric gadgets that pinpoint individuals on a wanted list, or a combination of such devices and applications.
Convergence - Being able to replace a number of single-purpose devices
Phone, Camera, Calculator, GPS, Diary, Notepad, Maps, Sat Nav, MP3 Player, Radio, these are just a few of the individual devices that our modern smartphone has replaced.
This convergence of devices similarly reduces the need for large standing armies.
By enabling soldiers to expertly perform multiple functions with the help of applications, the military smartphone makes army formations more efficient and lean; transforming them into smaller more nimble organisations that are networked for improved efficiencies.
When military smartphone enabled soldiers deploy for operations and encounter threats or situations that exceed their capabilities, their reachback support has already either coordinated on their behalf a reinforcement package or other available aid in their immediate vicinity or queued them for long-range support that can assist from afar, such as from an aircraft, ship, or even space-based platform.
Smartphone technology is already starting to make a significant impact across military operations, especially replacing cumbersome paper-based processes.
For example, the MoD’s purchase of 300 tablets for its C-17 RAF pilots that means that with everything stored digitally, they no longer have to carry around 14kg cases full of documents
You can be certain that our armies of the not so distant future will leverage smartphone innovations that will change the face of war and reshape the modern battlefield.