Android discharged | US Army SOC upgrades to iPhone 6S

Android discharged | US Army SOC upgrades to iPhone 6S

iTAC obsoletes ATAK

The Android Tactical Assault kit consists of a smartphone embedded in the chest pocket of of an operators combat equipment. The smartphone is connected to the AN/PRC-154A Rifleman’s Radio. This solution connects a platoon or a company of soldiers to whomever might need Secret or Sensitive but unclassified communications.

Android discharged
The Rifleman’s radio

Providing situational awareness, GPS, voice and data to remote operators, the NettWarrior Android Tactical Assault Kit was powered by a Samsung Galaxy. But according to sources on DoDBuzz,

The iPhone is “faster; smoother. Android freezes up” and has to be restarted too often, the source said. The problem with the Android is particularly noticeable when viewing live feed from an unmanned aerial system such as Instant Eye, the source said.

When trying to run a split screen showing the route and UAS feed, the Android smart phone will freeze up and fail to refresh properly and often have to be restarted, a process that wastes valuable minutes, the source said.

It’s seamless on the iPhone,” according to the source. “The graphics are clear, unbelievable.”

The Spec-Sheet is a lie

Obviously, a live feed from a UAV would be an important enough function to make sure the images were fluid, and the best response would be given by having the best intelligence feed possible. Since the mobile device display and graphics subsystem would be important,  we could draw comparison to the Metal and Vulkan API’s as a differentiator if the technology used in the tactical view route display were a 3D map. Even if the map data was pre-loaded, drawing high resolution 3D buildings or other detail on terrain that would take advantage of low-level, low-overhead graphics acceleration. This would be beneficial when anchoring user generated icons, and drawing on the map on a layer that would be overplayed on pre-loaded map data.

ATAK wiki
ATAK wiki

According to the report, a split screen showing the video data feed from the drone on one panel, and a tactical view of the route on the other is described as faster and smoother. If the system used the native maps applications of both handsets, in overhead view at full augmentation, google maps likes to update the position marker at 1hz, which is logical because that’s the GPS update frequency. Maps for iOS receives the same 1hz update broadcast, but Apple seems to update the marker fluidly, about 10hz. Even though the accuracy may be comparable, the perception could be faster.

It doesn’t specify the quality of the video feed nor does it give the type of map technology that is deployed. The Samsung mobile device model is also missing. Drawing conclusions from the mission description, a Note or S-Class Galaxy from the recent releases would be a good WAG.

English: Abstract: The purpose of this trade study is to evaluate map engines for the Nett Warrior End User Device (EUD), with strong consideration regarding interoperability throughout the Mobile Handheld Computing Environment (M/HH CE) and the Common Operating Environment (COE). The evaluation included considerations for content management, data management, creation, build, update, analysis, services, Application Program Interfaces (APIs), Standard and Sharable Geospatial Foundation (SSGF) and Cross-Cutting Capabilities (CCC) for Common Overlay and the Standard and Sharable Geospatial Foundation. It addresses producers, providers, and consumers. This report documents the methodology, analysis, and findings of the Trade Study Team.

Date 30 September 2014

The ATAK map engine evaluation criteria that was published and the entirety of the report can be found here.
This is the second Special Operations Command program to migrate to iDevices that I have seen in the few years. In 2012, the USAF SOC created the Digital Flight Bag, using an iPad.


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