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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Army Creates App for Soldiers to Attend AUSA Virtually

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By Gary Sheftick

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 27, 2011) — A new app for smartphones will allow Soldiers worldwide to visit Army exhibits and watch presentations taking place at the Washington Convention Center Oct. 10-12.

The Army Exhibit Mobile App will help visitors find what they’re looking for at the Association of the U.S. Army’s (AUSA) annual meeting and symposium, and allow those who can’t be there to take a virtual tour.

The app will also allow users to watch Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno and other senior leaders discuss leading-edge issues facing the Army, such as advancing the network, cyber security, future training, leader development and more. They will be able to hear Soldiers ask questions and get frank answers from their senior leaders.

“We want to expand the reach beyond the building and beyond the calendar,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Smedley, who explained the presentations and exhibits will be available for viewing on the app not just during the three days of the conference, but for months to come.

“You can watch it during halftime at the football game,” Smedley said. “You can watch it at an airport while waiting for a plane,” he added.

“We don’t encourage watching it while driving in traffic,” he joked.

Smedley, military deputy for Community Relations and Outreach at Army Public Affairs, has been working on the app since May. He said it will be available for downloading next week for iPhones, Droids, and iPads and his team has also been working on a version for BlackBerrys.

The site will have a link to the iTunes App Store, the Android Marketplace, and the HTML5 Blackberry site where the app can be downloaded.

Apple has already reviewed the app and sent back its technical approval, Smedley said.

The smartphone application will link to video of the 14 Institute of Land Warfare panels from the convention center. The symposium’s opening ceremony Oct. 10 featuring Secretary of the Army John McHugh will be available for viewing. So will the Eisenhower Luncheon Oct. 11 featuring Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno.

“You can sit and watch the chief talk about the way ahead,” Smedley said, adding that the presentations would also be good to play back for unit professional-development sessions, such as NCOPDs.

“It’s all about avoiding that white piece of paper,” he said, explaining that an interactive application and video are much more exciting than reading a handout.

The app is a partner to the Professional Development web page on which will have the links for viewing livestreaming and archived video on the smartphone, he said.

The four Family Forums at AUSA will be available on the app, as will presentations at the Warrior’s Corner. Warrior’s Corner presentations are part of the Department of the Army exhibit at booth 1775 in the center of the Convention Center’s exhibit hall.

Next to Warrior’s Corner will be a theater, playing two films also available on the app: “The Army Profession” and “The Squad: Foundation of the Decisive Force.”

The third zone of the Army exhibit will be an interactive look back over the past 10 years of war and the communications campaigns.

“We’re nested with the communications campaigns,” Smedley said, explaining that one of his jobs has been to ensure that the Army’s eight communication priorities resonate throughout the app and the Army’s exhibit.

Those communications priorities are color-coded on the app for the convenience of users, Smedley said.

“We’re pretty excited,” he said. “The app is permeating with our force.”

Young Soldiers are used to receiving information digitally through mobile devices, Smedley said, explaining that they read books on their iPad or Kindle and download technical manuals from the Internet. He predicted that they will be very comfortable with the new app.

“The convenience and portability is very good,” he emphasized.

The app will also include feedback mechanisms, Smedley said. In-app analytics will measure usage and allow Soldiers to rate the exhibits. The app will also allow users to provide both quantitative and qualitative feedback on the communications campaigns.

And Soldiers with ideas for making the app even better are invited to submit their suggestions, Smedley said.

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