Science and Technology News

Friday, February 28, 2014

Opportunities, challenges abound on mobile horizon, CIO says

by Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

2/28/2014 - WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon's chief information officer today discussed the vast opportunities mobile computing provides and its critical role in improving support for the Defense Department's 600,000 mobile device users.

During the 4th annual MobileGov Summit at the Newseum here, Teresa M. Takai said operational mobility pilot programs are a success story across the Defense Department's components.

"The goal is to ensure the warfighter has access to information, anywhere, any time, on any device, and the DOD is making progress in achieving this goal," she said. "These pilots allow DOD to gather lessons learned, identify cost reductions and improve productivity."

Takai cited an example of mobility pilot program success in the Air Force's electronic flight bag program.

"This electronic information management system is an iPad loaded with mobile applications, ... and it replaces paper-based reference materials that can weigh between 30 and 110 pounds," she explained, adding that hard-copy navigational charts and flight manuals soon could be obsolete as a result.

The electronic flight bag, she noted, can host applications to automate other functions, such as performance and takeoff calculations.

"This will allow flight crews to perform flight management tasks more easily and efficiently, with less paper -- all while increasing security and efficiencies," Takai said. Not only could the EFB program amount to about $1 million annually in fuel by reducing the weight of paper-based reference materials, she added, but new layers of security and encryption can augment protection of data.

The Air Force's Air Mobility Command is deploying about 18,000 devices as part of the program and will allow each squadron to customize applications tailored for its specific mission. "By December 2014," Takai said, "more than 10,000 Air Mobility Command EFBs will be able to access this capability."

Progress also includes improving the way in which certification occurs for mobile devices to operate on DOD networks, she reported. So far, the latest Apple, Android and Blackberry operating systems have been approved, with the green light pending for Microsoft devices. But challenges remain, such as considering how to effectively vet new applications and how to better control network access, Takai said.

"The idea is to adapt DOD software and data sources to enable mobile applications and design cloud-based services that will support disconnected scenarios," she explained.

Plans also include tapping into established national information exchange data models and using common mobile application development frameworks, the CIO said.

Partnership with industry, Takai told the conferees, also will be a critical part of DOD's overall shift to mobile computing.

"We hope to see increased industry participation in DOD's security standards, vetting tools and processes," she said.

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