Your mobile phone can be used to kill

Foreign Policy features an article about the “geo-politics of the iPhone”.

Perhaps the most revealing section:

The business: If you thought military procurement was all about snapping up hardware like guns and tanks, think again. Increasingly, companies like Raytheon and Knight’s Armament are developing smartphone applications for the armed services. Apple and Google are marketing their respective products, too. And the Pentagon’s buying.

The politics: Normally, military innovation drives advances in the private market. Take GPS satellite navigation, for instance, or the microwave oven. In the case of smartphones, though, the tables have turned. Web-enabled phones are going to war in ever greater numbers, and the U.S. military hopes that such devices, with the help of the Internet, can provide soldiers with reams of live battlefield data. But it isn’t just their passive capabilities that the military finds attractive.

In the same way that civilian third-party apps have greatly expanded the potential of the iPhone and similar hand-helds, the Pentagon’s R&D house, DARPA, bets that a military app store can likewise reshape the way soldiers fight and interact with one another. One such app, BulletFlight, lets snipers plug in variables like windage, distance, temperature, and humidity to help them achieve the perfect shot. Another, the One Force Tracker, plots friendly positions on a map in real time, and a third, Vcommunicator, produces “spoken and written translations of Arabic, Kurdish, and two Afghan languages.” It’s no revolution in military affairs, but the smartphone revolution may still shake up war-fighting in a big way.

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