The U.S. Department of Commerce's today announced researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have earned a 2014 GCN Award for Information Technology Excellence* for speeding development and delivery of secure, battlefield-handy—and sometimes lifesaving—smartphone apps to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The four-year NIST effort included distilling soldiers’ needs into app requirements, evaluating app performance, and designing a unique smartphone security architecture. It is among 10 GCN-recognized public-sector projects “showing the power of mobile technology to transform the government IT enterprise.”
The NIST team of engineers and computer scientists was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), under its Transformative Apps (TransApps) program. Working with soldiers, contract app developers and others, NIST contributed two brands of expertise—cybersecurity and software performance evaluation. And it organized the collaboration to accomplish DARPA’s objective, "Develop a diverse array of militarily relevant software applications using an innovative new development and acquisition process."
Within about a year after its 2010 start, DARPA-funded collaborators delivered a batch of commercially available smartphones and an initial set of secure, soldier-defined apps to an Army brigade in Afghanistan. By 2013, about 4,000 mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) were deployed in Afghanistan, and an online apps store was up and running for soldiers. The site now features about 60 apps—from map displays to a calculator for estimating blast distances to language games—and it offers regular upgrades.
One of the most popular apps is HeatMap, which color codes routes to indicate frequency of troop use, helping soldiers to vary their travel patterns.