It's pretty safe to say that government, and especially the military, is the driving force behind the creation of rugged gear. The standard set by the military, specifically the U.S. Military Standard 810 document, is the measure used to determine if a device is actually rugged, or simply hardened. Increasingly, Ingress Protection standards have also become important because they measure how much dust or water a device can stand before breaking.
Besides adding bulk to most products, ruggedizing gear can increase the cost. Most people won’t spend extra money for a rugged phone, especially if all it's going to do is make a comfortable commute from work to home once in a while. But military, law enforcement and other government personnel are often exposed to harsher conditions on the job, from thunderstorms to extreme temperatures to hostile environments, so rugged gear is needed.
So I was a little surprised to see that Caterpillar was releasing a fully-ruggedized smart phone that might be a good fit for both government and consumers. Called the B15, it’s a pretty sleek looking unit, with the ability to take a beating.
The B15 is an Android-based phone that runs the 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. It's got a 4-inch WVGA display with the required Gorilla Glass for extra ruggedness and a shatter-proof screen. The whole thing is driven by a 1GHz MediaTek MT6577 Dual Cortex-A9 chip, so it's pretty speedy. And it even has some nice extras, like a 5-megapixel rear facing camera for teleconferencing and a lower-resolution front-facing camera for snapping pictures or taking video around a worksite. And it has built-in GPS navigation, complete with turn-by-turn directions.
In terms of ruggedness, Caterpillar says its new phone can withstand a drop of up to six feet, which would make it Mil-Std rugged for shock. It also has an IP 67 rating, meaning that it's totally impervious to dust (the 6 rating) and can survive for up to 30 minutes operating three feet underwater (the 7 rating) without fail.
What’s most impressive, however, is that the rugged specifications didn't seem to add much bulk to the phone. The B15 is only 4.9-inches by 2.7-inches and .58-inches thick. It weighs 0.37-pounds, so almost a lightweight. The price of the phone is also good for a rugged device, at $349 for an unlocked model that could be used with almost any network.
Of course there is a certain cool factor involved with anything branded with the Caterpillar, or CAT name. When you think of that company, images of giant tractors and bright yellow construction equipment come to mind. But the B15 looks to be a bona fide rugged smart phone in its own right, not just a branding scheme. Given government's interest and need for rugged gear, it's always great to see another device of that type make its way into the market.
Posted by John Breeden II on May 24, 2013 at 7:24 AM0 comments
Many state governments are developing their own mobile apps for citizen services. And considering that all states provide essentially the same services, being able to share those apps would be handy.
But how to put them all in one place? The federal government has the USA.gov Mobile Apps Gallery to help people find federally-developed apps, but how would someone find what they need in their own or another state?
States such as California have a fairly comprehensive list of apps, but not every state does. Those living close to a state border (which is actually most of us) might not be able to find out what is available in neighboring states.
The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) has answered this call with its new State Mobile Apps Catalog, a clearinghouse for smart-phone and tablet apps developed for the 50 states throughout the country . Visitors can click on a map to find all of the apps for a particular state, or search the entire library for a particular type of app.
Currently, there are 160 apps in the Catalog, which is a small fraction of what is actually in existence, but more are being added all the time — the home page includes a link states can use to update or add apps. The site currently features apps from every state except Arizona, North Dakota and Oregon. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands also have apps listed, though the District of Columbia and Guam do not.
The catalog covers a range of topics, including public safety, health and wellness, public assistance, employee assistance, state portal, traffic/road conditions and parks and recreation. You can, for example, check out California’s Locator app, Florida’s State Parks Outdoor Guide, or West Virginia’s Suspicious Activity Reporting app.
"This tool offers a convenient way to see what other states are producing in terms of mobile apps, and allowing states to generate ideas for their own state or territory," said Brenda Decker, NASCIO president and Nebraska CIO. "Some states lead the way in mobile app development and can pose as models for those growing their mobile app capabilities."
Posted by Greg Crowe on May 16, 2013 at 7:33 AM0 comments
The newest version of Apple’s iOS, Version 6, has passed an important test for agency use, gaining FIPS 140-2 certification from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
NIST recently added the Apple iOS CoreCrypto Kernel Module v3.0 to its Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) certification list. When operating in FIPS mode, the CoreCrypto met Level 1 of FIPS 140-2, which means it meets government security requirements.
According to the NIST validation summary, the module was tested on an iPhone 4, an iPhone 4S and an iPad (single-user mode) all running iOS 6.0. There is no indication whether NIST tested or plans to test it on newer devices such as the iPhone 5.
As “bring you own device” policies get implemented in more government agencies, network administrators will likely look at this announcement as good news for their employees who want to use their Apple mobile devices.
iOS 6 has had its share of security issues. CVE Details lists over 230 vulnerabilities, many of which have been resolved. One vulnerability allowed hackers to use a locked iPhone to access contacts and make calls.
So the FIPS certification is important, as agencies move toward mobile computing. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are moving to iPhones in a big way. And the Defense Department’s Commercial Mobile Device Implementation Plan calls for accommodating a range of mobile devices, including those running iOS.
Posted by Greg Crowe on May 09, 2013 at 1:44 PM0 comments