Apple’s iPhone can be your personal radio, your web browser, your Yellow Pages and your all-in-one online retailer. But now, thanks to defense contractor Raytheon, it can help you kill insurgents as well.
At a defense industry conference this week, the company recently known for developing a pain ray that can make you feel like you’re on fire from 700 yards away unveiled an iPhone app that lets soldiers in the field track allies and enemies alike.
The app displays the location of targeted individuals on a real-time map and also provides secure communications between the app’s users. Raytheon’s chief tech officer, J Smart, said the company decided to build an iPhone app because it’s cheaper than building a custom handheld device for military uses, the Guardian reports.
The New York Times notes that this process of taking civilian technology and applying it to the military is the opposite of what usually happens:
The adaptation of the iPhone to military use is somewhat unusual, as technology more often trickles from the military to the consumer market. But this is a rare case of consumer hardware and software concepts being adapted for military use.
For instance, crowdsourcing, which has volunteers use cellphones to report real-time traffic flow, could be adapted to turn each soldier into a reporting unit, delivering real-time data about position and status.
But Nigel Constantine at TGDaily points out “a few problems with Raytheon’s big idea. … Firstly Steve Jobs will have to personally allow the US military to use the iPhones on another network. Last we checked iPhone users trying to connect to AT&T’s 3G networks from the Tora Bora caves found they were a bit out of range.”
And the Engadget blog says the military will need a “ruggedized” version of the phone in order to withstand the pressures of the combat zone.
Raytheon is reportedly working on other iPhone apps as well, including one that would help to train air traffic controllers, the Times reports.