Army_Vanguard_of_Valor_iPad

Army reformats popular Afghanistan book as an iPad app

Of all the branches of the military, the Army has been in the forefront of interactive instruction through mobile devices. The Combined Arms Support Command Sustainment Center of Excellence has put out dozens of mobile learning apps that educate the public on what the Army is doing or instruct soldiers on how to do their jobs better.

And they have even been developing support infrastructure that will allow soldiers to use their mobile devices more effectively in the field, such as the lightweight battery chargers that the Research, Development and Engineering Command has been developing.

But the textbooks that are used in Army training centers all over the world are still largely static information. They are available as traditional hard-copy texts, or in some cases electronically as a PDF or an ebook, but that is often the extent of how dynamic it gets. Until recently, this was true of even one of the most popular textbooks in recent years, “Vanguard of Valor: Small Unit Actions In Afghanistan.” The book covers eight specific platoon-level operations that took place in Afghanistan, and was so popular among instructors that the Army produced a second volume. Both are available in paperback, or as a free PDF on the Army’s website.

Now the Combat Studies Institute (CSI) of the Combined Arms Center (CAC) has released the first volume of the book in the form of an interactive iPad app. This version replaces static map images with animated GIFs, and integrates audio, video, and interactive graphics to make it a truly interactive learning experience.

This is the first time the Army has re-released a textbook as an interactive app, but it may not be the last. They also plan to make “Vanguard of Valor” for other platforms, but right now you can only get it for the iPad. It is available for free in the iTunes store.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments


Screenshot from CDC ipad game Solve the Outbreak

Educational games are getting contagious

Do you think you have what it takes to stop a plague in its tracks? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released an iPad app called “Solve the Outbreak”  that lets players take on the role of a disease detective sent by the CDC to take control of an outbreak scenario.

In real life, new outbreaks happen every day, and the CDC sends out its investigators to determine the causes, so treatment can be initiated. The game rates how well players handle the fictitious situation and is designed to help the public learn about what the CDC does on a daily basis.

The CDC’s interest in games doesn’t include just making its own. The agency has also taken an interest in Plague, Inc. -- a tablet game where players try to create and spread a deadly disease -- and have even asked the game’s creator to speak at the CDC offices.

Using games and mobile apps to help educate the public about government activities has become increasingly popular, such as “America’s Army,” which has even been made into interactive books and comic books.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers are using a “Tron”-like game to find ways of improving network security. Muzzy Lane Software has a game designed to teach people how government works.And the European Space Agency is using a game to help improve its software for controlling robotic space flights.

Would-be disease detectives can download the app at the iTunes store and maybe save us from a plague or two.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Mar 20, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments


Government user juggling mobile products

Government needs are redefining tablets

In preparing for an upcoming roundup of tablets for government use, I have been pleased to find government-friendly features such as ruggedness and advanced security are becoming commonplace.

But it’s not as if manufacturers have settled on a standard size or set of features. As Agam Shah of Computerworld noted,  no one knows exactly which of these features will appeal to commercial users, or even what a particular government organization will need. As a result, many manufacturers are providing subsets of features they think will sell the best.

For instance, I am looking at tablets that are fully MIL-STD 810F rated for ruggedness and others with biometric fingerprint scanners and/or smart card readers that would work to two-factor authentication, but none of them have both.

And the important features of any tablet will always depend on the agency and the project. For instance, when the Air Force decided to go with iPads to replace its cumbersome hard-copy flight bags, it was looking specifically for a tablet that would respond well to touch and show text clearly and cleanly.

Other agencies might opt for the Dell Latitude 10 Enhanced Security Tablet, which includes a fingerprint and smart-card reader. Others might go with a rugged tablet, such as a Panasonic Toughpad.

Exactly how popular specific features traditionally required only by the government  become in the commercial marketplace is anyone’s guess right now. However, one thing is clear – the needs of government users are influencing manufacturers, and helping to redefine what a tablet should offer.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments