The soldier’s future is digital
Digital technology enhancing armed forces capabilities
In extreme cases, they can mean the difference between life and death. Day to day, they make a soldier’s life easier. Rugged notebooks and tablets are already an integral part of a soldier’s personal armour system – and electronics will be an even bigger asset to members of the armed forces in the future.
On their devices, soldiers can easily receive commands and see where both friends and enemies are located, which allows them to focus on the mission at hand. The system is particularly useful for command and control where higher-ranked officers can draw and communicate orders to multiple platoons simultaneously. This digital communications approach beats the traditional method hands-down – where commands were issued over radio and the platoons on the ground had to work with a physical map and compass, resulting in an increased risk of miscommunication and mistakes. With the commands being distributed digitally, there is less room for miscommunication and the platoons can maintain a higher tempo in operational situations.
But for this digital communication system to work, it is critical for the devices to be rugged and able to perform alongside the troops in extreme conditions, such as cold, hot and wet weather, as well as surviving heavy drops and knocks.
Denmark’s armed forces recently deployed Panasonic TOUGHBOOK FZ-M1 rugged tablets, supplied by Precision Technic Defence, to some of its personnel. This unit can be used as a regular tablet and still lives up to the US military standard MIL-STD-801G, meaning that it is combat ready and can resist shocks, vibrations, extreme temperatures and high humidity. It is also IP65 certified and is therefore completely dust resistant and able to resist low pressure water streams.
The British army uses Panasonic rugged Toughbook notebooks in its defence exercises on Salisbury Plain in the UK. By merging virtual with reality, the army is able to run training exercises that closely mimic real-life combat situations. For example, with real personnel and vehicles on the ground and virtual aircraft operating overhead.
Rugged tablets are also used by British Royal Airforce helicopter pilots, who strap the rugged tablets to their thigh when flying missions to enable them to see live satellite and video images of the ground.
Soldiers have high demands
Panasonic TOUGHBOOK is a popular choice because the devices can be customised and meet strict requirements for durability, screen readability, quietness and ease of use - even with gloves.
However, it is primarily their ruggedness and ability to survive in extreme conditions that makes the device a popular choice. In short, they excel in situations where soldiers do not have the time to treat the device gently. The screen needs to be bright enough to be visible in direct sunlight and have a low light setting, so the platoon won’t be revealed during missions at night.
Get the heads up from the screen
Today, many armed forces personnel are primarily equipped with tablets connected to a radio, but this is just the beginning of the digital uniform. Soldiers will soon be equipped with more mobile devices such as smart glasses for special units. With these, personnel can see essential information on the lens of the glasses and still have an overview of the area in which they are located.
In addition, the types of computer devices will be expanded, so soldiers can be equipped with a device to suit their specific needs. Platoon leaders, for instance, need tablets with easy overview of a digital map, while those on the frontline need less information and would value a lighter, smaller sized device. The digital soldier is still at an early stage of development but the future looks set to be filled with more variety of devices and more advanced software.
Today, heads may be looking down at the screen, but the biggest change in the future will be devices that allow the soldiers to lift theirs heads and be able to see the whole mission laid out in front of them both digitally and in reality.
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