Using off-the-shelf mobile devices is a relatively new phenomenon among defence forces that opens up many possibilities to improve operational efficiencies.
In this post, we look at several benefits of deploying rugged mobile technology. We’ll also give our take on what kinds of hardware, software and support are required to gain maximum return on investment from the latest advances.
‘Defence’, of course, is a broad term as far as job roles go. As well as combat-ready troops, defence organisations include equipment maintenance engineers, IT specialists, logistics, HR and finance. All of these areas can benefit from mobile technology that brings greater speed, efficiency and cost-saving to operations.
All of our recommendations assume you’ll be using rugged devices – high-performing Android phones and tablets that can stand up to the knocks and shocks of challenging environments. Consumer-grade phones simply won’t cut it in a defence environment.
Here’s 7 key benefits of rugged mobile technology for defence forces
1) Streamlined security checks
However necessary, security gate checks can be a notorious bottleneck. It can simply take far too long to verify ID and fill out paperwork.
Mobile devices can streamline this process by using optical character recognition (OCR) to read military contractor or personnel cards. The character reader can quickly extract the necessary information from a document and automatically fill form fields, speeding up processes and reducing errors. Furthermore, the use of Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technologies – e.g. barcodes, NFC or RFID – can assist security guards with an additional means of verifying the access authorisation of a person or vehicle.
A phone, an appropriate security app and integration with backend processes can eliminate a perennial problem right across a defence organisation.
2) Faster machinery and vehicle maintenance
Mobile devices can hold – or gain fast access to – a virtually endless number of electronic equipment maintenance manuals and work instructions. So, if a piece of kit is being repaired in a hangar or even in the field, there’s no need to carry around unwieldy guides. Using a rugged device, everything can be available for reference instantly at the point of work.
Emerging technologies offer particularly exciting possibilities in this area too. Already, augmented reality (AR) apps are being used to relay visual instructions in a highly effective way. Here’s how it works. The user views a scene, for instance an engine, on a phone or tablet in live video mode. The app recognises the engine and its components and pastes explanatory notes and graphics on top of the live video. If both hands are required, the AR can be delivered on screen, or through special glasses or goggles.
3) Better inventory management and tracking
Using a custom-built app and add-ons such as barcode scanners, personnel can manage and track assets in a single view, anywhere. End-to-end visibility can include procurement, maintenance and disposal of assets. This will help to track assets, identify any bottlenecks and provide a real-time assessment of inventory to help warehouse managers make informed decisions.
4) Quicker parts ordering
Traditionally, when an engineer discovers faults to equipment or machinery, they will need to log details and, following a return to the office, order parts. A rugged device can significantly speed up this process. For instance, if an engineer discovers a faulty component on an aircraft or tank, they can order the part instantly on their phone/tablet. A huge time-saver.
5) More efficient compliance procedures
Periodic safety checks, risk assessments, and asset management and maintenance are essential defence estate activities. They are also hugely time-consuming and resource-intensive. All can be speeded up considerably using a smartphone and appropriate software. Instead of laborious paper form-filling, data can be gathered using standardised digital forms and photography/video; meanwhile, completed data can be returned instantly to the office and automatically distributed to all relevant parties. You can find out more about commissioning tailormade data capturing and reporting software to streamline compliance procedures here.
6) Convenient communications
In a fast-paced military environment, there are times when communication must require nothing more than a simple, single push of a button. We are talking about push-to-talk voice communication, of course, and with the right software a mobile device can become a two-way radio.
Similarly, messaging apps such as Zebra Workforce Connect can be configured as closed, secure and fully encrypted systems. Find out more here.
7) Better mission planning
The Tactical Assault Kit (TAK) is an android app originally developed by the USA’s Air Force Research Laboratory and now maintained by the Joint Product Centre. This geospatial app allows precision targeting, land formation intelligence, navigation and data sharing. The software helps soldiers and public safety personnel to communicate a common operating picture (COP), providing a consistent map for navigation and situational awareness.
Which rugged mobile devices?
From a defence forces point of view, Zebra Technologies’ rugged mobile technology can’t be beaten in terms of resilience, power and adaptability. They are not only engineered for the toughest and most demanding environments, they also feature a wide range of add-ons suitable for many defence forces scenarios – from vehicle mounts to power supply cradles and barcode scanners. Crucially, support plans are superb and can include next-day, ‘like new’ device replacement, so you can avoid costly downtime.
Nuffield Technologies can help source Zebra hardware and accessories for your team, consulting closely with you to exactly meet your requirements.
You can also visit our sister organisation Rugged Data to find out how creating bespoke software can streamline operations.
Book a call with Nuffield Technologies now to find out how we can help you introduce greater safety, efficiencies and cost savings.