Army readies apps marketplace for deployment

The Army is planning to launch its very own version of an apps store where soldiers can download military-specific software for mobile devices. 

The marketplace will initially feature software created by soldiers, including digital workout guides, manuals, and other useful information. So far, there are 17 apps for Android and 16 apps for iPhone.

Lt. Col. Gregory Motes, chief of the Army’s new Mobile Applications Branch, said he hopes the Army Marketplace will help generate new app ideas as it gains popularity.

For example, the app store will boast a forum for discussions and suggestions of new apps. If a particular suggestion gets lots of interest, the Army will open bidding or contracting process from vendors who could create that particular app.

“I’d use an agile software-development process, to close with the vendor and try to quickly turn these apps around,” Motes told Wired Danger Room.

“The current process of software creation [in the Army] is a very long and arduous process. That’s how we do things. But app development needs to be done quickly.”

The Army also hopes to create apps to track the location of allies, for translation, or to map out wartime terrain.

However, the Pentagon hasn’t yet certified a mobile device secure enough to receive data from its networks.

Yes, the Army is currently testing Google Android’s OS to power its first smartphone prototype made by MITRE, the federally funded defense consultancy. And yes, other defense companies use Android’s open architecture to power their own mobile devices like Raytheon’s RATS and General Dynamics’ GD300.

But so far, the Army hasn’t found a device it’s completely satisfied with, although the goal is to ultimately arm every soldier with a smartphone.

According to Motes, the iPhone is in testing at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to see if it’s secure enough to host government data. 

Yet, as of now, the Army “doesn’t have a solution for authenticating applications or secure websites… [But] an optimist might say [we will in] 12 months.”