Marine Corps looks to smart devices for warfighters

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The Marine Corps increasingly views mobile devices as a way to push new capabilities out to lower echelons, but security remains an unresolved problem.

Rather than, for example, build a new system to capture photographs of possible improvised explosive devices for analysis with dedicated hardware and software, "they can leverage a mobile device that will take that picture and send it back to the server, and all [the Marines on patrol] are focused on is the application," said Capt. Josh Dixon, project officer for technology transition within the Marine Corps Systems Command. He spoke Jan. 23 during the 2013 Federal Mobile Computing Summit in Washington, D.C.

The dominant method of communication at the company level and below still remains voice, Dixon said.  

But, before smart mobile devices can become widespread within the service, Marines need a secure device with roots of trust built into it--"a mobile device that has an isolation technology on it so that we can isolate multiple domains," he said.

By way of illustration, when the Marines Corps currently wants to communicate with another organization outside of the U.S. military--such as an allied military or nongovernmental organization, it physically sends a Marine with a secure radio who acts as a human relay point for communications.

"And, the Marine has to have a liaison officer with him too, so there's a communications Marine and there's a liaison officer, and then there's a staff officer. There's a whole cell that we send...just to communicate with them across organizations," he said.

Security is also key because deployed Marines downrange can't count on pervasive, high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity--meaning that the service must store data on the device rather than going for the easier option of having it all reside in a cloud. "The majority of our use cases require disconnected operations," Dixon noted.

When it comes to authentication, Dixon also said the service doesn't want a hardware-based solution. "Hard tokens are hard for us to handle," he said.

For more:
visit the summit website

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